Tuesday 2 October 2018

Review by Sue Mackrell of "Diversifly: Poetry and Art on Britain's Urban Birds" edited by Nadia Kingsley

This is a book of delights, a rich gem to be cherished and returned to again and again. Poems and images contribute to the wonderful evocation of birds in urban spaces.  Each page is worthy of framing. The richness of colour and diversity of the beautifully reproduced artwork is striking - there are stunning pictures of birds produced in digital art, oil paintings and watercolours, woodcuts, line drawings, screen printing, mosaics and photographs.

Imagery in the poems is closely observed and make the ordinary extraordinary. Starlings, with their ‘goth eyeliner, [are] raucous and rucking over territory.’ Their murmuration is ‘A cloud of iron filings / pulled across a November sky / by an invisible magnetic force.’
Watched from a bus, crows are ‘black slicksters / swaggering quick footed.’ They are ‘a squawk of anarchy / among the ordered tubs of town council flowers.’ ‘Daring breakfast pigeons [are] dodging cars for white breadcrumbs ...living between traffic and trains.’ Others are shoplifting at ‘Smith’s in Market Street’ and in a disturbing inversion a pigeon watches a homeless man ‘lucky dipping in litter bins for gold and glittered things’ and later, ‘He’s outside M & S/ in his sleeping bag nest.'

'A heron is unexpected as royalty / on this riverless estate’ while Long-tailed Tits are ‘launching themselves over / tarmac oceans to the next unnamed green island.’ An unwary pedestrian is swooped on by a seagull, ’Your face a furious paper cut out, / you plummeted earthwards.’

Use of specific location gives resonance – ‘The Coventry wagtail/two tone, wily, /combs car parks / quick with a pied flick.’ The Peregrine Falcons of York Minster perch on the gargoyles and grotesques. In my own poem a ’flypast of swallows’ entertain festival goers in Hyde Park before being ‘drawn / to the warmth of the south.’ And here I have to declare an interest – I am honoured to have a poem included in this beautiful collection. Jayne Stanton, another Leicester poet, is also represented in ‘Mistle-thrush nest,’ worth quoting in full – Suspending disbelief / as we wait on a red light – five unhinged heads, poised / between top and base heat / of amber/green.

About the reviewer

Sue Mackrell's poems and short stories have appeared in a wide range of publications, including Agenda and Fairacre Press. She has an MA from Loughborough University, and taught creative writing there for several years. She enjoys working on local history projects, giving a voice to those who have been silenced, such as local witches and Leicester Conscientious Objectors of the First World War. 

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