Sunday, April 01, 2012

Tricky bird, the raven


This afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Lyon Books in Chico is hosting four poets, each a contributor to "A Bird Black As The Sun: California Poets On Crows and Ravens" ($15 in paperback from Green Poet Press). Edited by Enid Osborn and Cynthia Anderson, the book includes submissions from dozens of writers and, of course, is causing considerable flap in the world of poetry. A whole book dedicated to a bird? Oh, yes.

"One characteristic that sets corvidae apart from other birds," write the editors, "is their ability to individuate and surprise. We could say the same about the California poets who fill these pages. We hope this anthology gives you, the reader, caws to celebrate."

Each section, as the crow flies, traverses some aspect of the bird: An awakener, enigma, muse, beloved, omen, presence, likeness, messenger, night-bringer and, less we forget the first aviatricks, a joker.

One of the invited poets at today's reading hails from Gilroy. Rochelle Arellano, in "Modern," tells of one who "had stopped believing / in omens, choosing instead to be / startled, then amused, by a raven, / clumsy over its dead, that she swerved / to avoid in the middle of the road." But there is more to the story.

Lara Gularte, the assistant poetry editor for Narrative magazine, writes of "Finding the Sacred," picturing "Crows on a church roof, / a ring of ancestors chanting."

Susan Kelly-DeWitt, featured on The Writer's Almanac and author of "The Fortunate Islands," evokes "Crows At Evening": "Twilights I see them / thick as brambles / of wild grape; // a black smoke of them, a coil / of black wires; a royal black / highway paved with feathers."

Patricia Wellingham-Jones, author of the award-winning "End-Cycle: Poems About Caregiving," finds a messenger. In "A Raven Rides His Shoulder," "He pushes his tired body / behind the wheel of this '89 Chevy truck, / drives to his second full-time / job of the day. // Last week / his 83-year-old mother died. // Guilt digs in its claws / like a raven riding his shoulder. / He okays the $600 in flowers that smell / decayed before the funeral begins." Later, though, the raven brings another message, something of hope.

This is a book to feed the ravenous.

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