Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An aviary

I picked up a copy of Moderate Fable, Marguerite Young's second book of poetry, published in 1944. It's short – 50 pages – and comes across as a more rococo version of Wallace Stevens. There isn't quite the full-on exuberance of language that seeps through Young's prose, but it's clearly in development here. The word "lorn" comes up twice in fifty pages, as do "moose," which I'd somehow imagined lived outside the world of poetry until Elizabeth Bishop came along. The word "mental" recurs, and there's a preponderance of the color red. There are a strange number of parachutes as well as angels, although Young makes it clear that she lives in a secular universe. Although there's only one poem specifically about them ("Death by Rarity"), there are also enough birds to convert Jonathan Franzen to her poetry. Leaving aside angels and insects and edge cases, here's a list of all of them, which might give a good idea of the flavor of this book:

  • the lean crow

  • Wayfarer loon

  • humming birds lost

  • the wild cockatoo

  • partridge eyes

  • seraphim blue heron

  • the nest abandoned by orioles

  • nighthawk, swift, ruby throat

  • roseate spoonbill

  • snowy egret slain

  • the flamingo

  • the heath hen

  • wild / Trumpeter swan

  • the perfect bird

  • Names of birds whose names are poems

  • ashen swallows

  • starlings

  • white sea birds

  • long-legged plover

  • white cockatoo

  • the robin redbreast

  • a sparrow lost

  • burrowing birds

  • burrowing bird

  • the snow goose

  • the albino crow

  • oily sea gulls woefully emergent

  • orioles in a purely mental snow

  • long-tailed birds with soft bills

  • The scarlet ibis

  • the whooping crane

  • The propaganda of a bird

  • the crested auklets

  • the rose-breasted / Grosbeak

  • the migratory redwing

  • the golden plover

  • The beautiful birds

  • the rare / Loon

  • the lone shearwater

  • the laughing gull

  • no grebe and gold-eye

  • no bird remember

  • the ravens

  • the three pacific doves

  • The meek sparrows

  • the ostriches light-eyed

  • the rain crow's crying

  • a grey-cheeked thrush's being

  • Ibis was ibis intangible

  • snow-colored ibis

  • the transparent bird

  • Leda's swans

  • peacock thousand-eyed

  • The mournful cry of ass-birds

  • the hemisphereless bird

  • burrowing owls

  • the grey horned geese

  • the fickle birds

  • wild rock goose

  • hoary owls

  • white swan

  • black swan

  • glassy sparrows

  • the daylight owl

  • the white heron

  • the red-veined birds

  • the mute swans

  • a bird in the storm

  • the bird in the rain

  • every snow-greaved swan

  • the whirling geese

  • both man and his swan

  • the lorn hawk

  • sparrows homeless in the air

  • the white swan

  • pigeons decoy the steeple and bells

  • extra-terrestrial raven

  • any cynic bird

  • the raven's nest

  • the dog-faced owl

  • the white ptarmigan

Are there so many birds in Miss MacIntosh?


  1. There are so many of one bird! The poor changeling canary at the end of chapter 2!

  2. Illustrated edition! like Apollinaire's "Bestiary."

    So is the poetry good (worth republishing) or not so good?