There’s always a story behind writing a book. But sometimes there’s a story behind reading one as well, and in many cases it has something to do with timing.
“Low on words today
want to rest flat in the sun
watch birds rise and play”
As you may have noticed, I’ve been paying attention to birds this year, a lot more than usual. Whether I was observing them from my window during lockdown or I was trying to capture them in my photographs while enjoying some relaxing moments in nature, they provided me with much needed tranquillity, wisdom and perspective. So what better time to finally read Yvette Prior’s Avian Friends? I’ve had it for a while, but the time for me to read it was clearly this summer.
“How could the sunshine and sound of singing birds bring so much joy?
How can a cool-warm breeze and green grass, even with weeds, feel so sweet?”
While my first impulse was to read Yvette Prior’s bird inspired poetry collection in one sitting, I resisted, treating myself to a few poems at a time, preferably outdoors. The book is clearly a labour of love, intertwining spirituality, introspection and analysis. Perhaps the most interesting feature is that every poem is followed by the author’s personal account about what inspired it and her considerations regarding the deeper implications of those events. I found this two-fold reading experience quite gratifying. The reader can first assimilate the poem through a personal filter, then a different perspective is presented, thus having a much stronger connection to the author.
The poems have a strong spiritual component and in some cases the author’s religious beliefs are at their core, yet the general tendency is to focus on life’s struggles and joys, and the way to cope with all of them. The counsellor’s wisdom is grabbing, the poet’s warmth and honesty disarming, her humour refreshing, and the well-researched bird related facts interesting, making this a satisfying reading experience even for an atheist such as myself. Did I relate to everything in the poems? No, but discovering diverse ways to achieve contentment and gratitude is always enriching.
“It is not really ‘my’ yard –
this earth belongs to us all
but would it be that hard –
to have a birdie lavatory stall?”
As always, one of my favourite traits of Yvette Prior’s writing remains her ability to realistically assess and depict complex, multiple, sometimes antithetical facets. “I wanted to convey that we can still love something even if it comes with mess” she notes when discussing one of the poems.
“We can have excellence (and maturity) in many areas and still make mistakes – it is part of being human.”
If – like me – you believe our avian friends can teach us countless lessons, big and small, if you find joy and peace in observing them, you might find this poetry collection a compelling, relatable read, one that makes you think about life’s intricacies.
“Sometimes we go about life keeping track of the big milestones, like education, careers, moves, birthdays, etc. But there are small markers too – little things that signal change – like green grass beginning to turn brown – a bit of ice on the windshield – or small blue eggs in a nest.”
* Quotes from Avian Friends, by Yvette Prior