American Birds: A Literary Companion

American Birds: A Literary Companion


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Featuring some of America's greatest writers and poets, this landmark anthology is a one-of-a-kind field guide to the American literary imagination.

Americans have always been fascinated by birds and from the beginning American writers have captured this keen interest in a variety of genres: poems, journals, memoirs, short stories, essays, and travel accounts. Here literature professor and avid birder Andrew Rubenfeld, in collaboration with acclaimed writer Terry Tempest Williams, who provides a foreword, gathers evocative and surprising writings on birds and our fascination with them from an astonishing array of American poets and writers. The result is a literature of singular depth and beauty, with occasional flights of fancy in the mix. 

Experience the exquisite beauty of Native American songs about birds. Accompany Lewis and Clark as they encounter new species, Audubon as he sketches near New Orleans, and Emerson and Thoreau birding together around Walden Pond. Delight in Sarah Orne Jewett’s poignant tale of a snowy egret in the Maine woods and Florence Merriam’s portrait of a winter wren in Central Park. Join Rachel Carson as she watches skimmers along the Atlantic coast and Roger Tory Peterson observing snail kites in the Everglades. And thrill to an impressive roster of modern and contemporary poets, including Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Sterling A. Brown, Cornelius Eady, Mary Oliver, Linda Hogan, Louise Erdrich, and David Tomas Martinez, as they evoke the magic and haunting beauty of America’s birds.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781598536553
Publisher: Library of America
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Pages: 270
Sales rank: 365,412
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

ANDREW RUBENFELD is professor of literature at Stevens Institute of Technology where he teaches courses on American nature and environmental writing. He has served as president of the Linnaean Society of New York, the nation’s second oldest ornithological and conservation organization, and is a founding member of the Birders’ Coalition for Gateway, to restore the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge following Hurricane Sandy. 

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS is the award-winning author of numerous books, including Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, When Women Were Birds, and Erosion: Essays of Undoing. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is currently the Writer-in-Residence at the Harvard Divinity School, dividing her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Castle Valley, Utah.

Table of Contents

Foreword Terry Tempest Williams xv

Introduction Andrew Rubenfeld 1

Three American Indian Songs about Birds

Hawk Chant of the Saginaws (Ojibwa) 13

The Mocking-Bird's Song (Tigua) 14

The Road-Runner (Pima) 15

J. Hector St. John De Crèvecoeur

On the Humming Bird (1782) 16

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark

From Journals, 1805-1806 18

John James Audubon

From Mississippi RiverJournal, 1820-1821 24

Ivory-billed Woodpecker (1838) 34

William Cullen Bryant

To a Waterfowl (1821) 41

Ralph Waldo Emerson

From Journals, 1838-1862 43

Henry David Thoreau

From Journals, 1852-1858 46

Emily Dickinson

A Bird came down the Walk-(c. 1862) 63

The Way to know the Bobolink (c. 1873) 64

Walt Whitman

Birds Migrating at Midnight (1882) 65

Bird-Whistling (1882) 66

Birds-and a Caution (1882) 67

Sarah Orne Jewett

A White Heron (1886) 68

Herman Melville

The Man-of-War Hawk (1888) 81

The Blue-Bird (late 1880s) 82

Florence A. Merriam

Winter Wren (1889) 83

Sidney Lanier

The Mocking Bird (1891) 86

Frank M. Chapman

A Word to the Beginner (1895) 87

Goldfinch (1895) 91

John Burroughs

Wild Life about My Cabin (1904) 92

Theodore Roosevelt

From An Autobiography (1913) 110

John Muir

A New World (1913) 112

North Fork of the Merced (1911) 114

Robert Frost

The Oven Bird (1916) 116

Carl Sandburg

Purple Martins (1920) 117

John Hall Wheelock

The Fish-Hawk (1922) 119

Marianne Moore

The Frigate Pelican (1935) 121

Rachel Carson

Flood Tide (1941) 123

Theodore Roethke

The Heron (1941) 127

Aldo Leopold

April: Sky Dance (1949) 128

Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher

Kites over the Sawgrass (1956) 132

Edwin Way Teale

Swallow Clouds (1956) 138

Ogden Nash

Up from the Egg: The Confessions of a Nuthatch Avoider (1957) 147

Robinson Jeffers

Vulture (1963) 148

William Carlos Williams

Bird Song (1963) 149

Elizabeth Bishop

Sandpiper (1965) 150

Randall Jarrell

The Mockingbird (1965) 151

John Haines

If the Owl Calls Again (1966) 152

John Hollander

Swan and Shadow (1968) 154

William Stafford

Juncos (1973) 155

Gary Snyder

Magpie's Song (1974) 156

Barry Lopez

The Raven (1976) 157

Anthony Hecht

House Sparrows (1979) 161

Sterling A. Brown

Idyll (1980) 163

Faith McNulty

The Ever Hungry Jay (1980) 165

Lorna Dee Cervantes

Emplumada (1981) 170

Robert Penn Warren

Redwing Blackbirds (1981) 171

E. B. White

A Listener's Guide to the Birds (1981) 173

Robert Creeley

The Birds (1982) 176

Charles Simic

The Great Horned Owl (1982) 178

Cornelius Eady

Crows in a Strong Wind (1986) 179

David Wagoner

Kingfisher (1987) 180

May Swenson

Waterbird (1987) 181

Duane Niatum

Snowy Owl near Ocean Shores (1991) 182

Terry Tempest Williams

Peregrine Falcon (1991) 183

Mary Oliver

Gannets (1992) 187

Linda Hogan

Crow Law (1993) 189

Amy Clampitt

Shorebird-Watching (1994) 190

Robert Wrigley

Ravens at Deer Creek (1998) 192

Marie Winn

From Red-Tails in Love (1998) 194

Richard Wilbur

A Barred Owl (2000) 202

Louise Erdrich

I Was Sleeping Where the Black Oaks Move (2003) 203

Debra Nystrom

Cliff Swallows (2003) 205

Mark Jarman

A Pair of Tanagers (2004) 206

Ted Kooser

Screech Owl (2004) 208

Pamela Uschuk

Snow Goose Migration at Tule Lake (2005) 209

Robert Cording

Peregrine Falcon, New York City (2006) 211

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Cactus Wren (2006) 213

Timothy Steele

Black Phoebe (2006) 214

Richard Powers

From The Echo Maker (2006) 216

Jonathan Rosen

From The Life of the Skies (2008) 221

Emily Wilson

Red-Legged Kittiwake (2009) 229

C. K. Williams

Blackbird (2010) 232

Jack Collom

Ruddy Duck (2012) 234

Rick Bass

Answering the Call (2013) 235

Wendell Berry

The Acadian flycatcher, not (2013) 239

David Tomas Martinez

Of Mockingbirds (2014) 240

Sidney Wade

Indigo Bunting (2017) 242

Noah Strycker

From Birding Without Borders (2017)

W. S. Merwin

Unknown Bird (2001) 248

Sources and Acknowledgments 251

Index 263

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