Billy Collins and David Allen Sibley discuss Bright Wings

In anticipation of tomorrow’s reading from Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds the American Museum of Natural History, the museum’s Web site has posted interviews with the book’s editor Billy Collins and illustrator David Allen Sibley.

Collins and Sibley will be joined by other poets to read from the collection and tickets are still available for the event. Want a signed copy of the book by Billy Collins? There is still time to enter our contest to win a Billy Collins-autographed copy of the book.

Here is an excerpt from the interview with Billy Collins:

Q: As a group, birds seem to inspire more poets than do mammals, say. Is there something particularly poetic about birds? Flight?

Billy Collins: I tried to simplify the appeal of birds to poets in the book’s introduction by saying that they do two things that poets long to do: sing and fly. And sometimes they perform these natural miracles simultaneously! Another reason might be the amazing variety of bird species, ranging from the hummingbird to the sand hill crane. Birds offer an immense spectrum of types, certainly compared to the wolf, say, or the rhino.

Q: Some species, such as swallows and owls, seem to have been a popular subject for poets for millennia. Why do you think that is?

Billy Collins: Swallows perhaps because of their aerial acrobatics, which are especially impressive to behold when you stop to realize that as they are gliding this way and that, they are eating 100’s of mosquitoes. The owl? Most mysterious of birds. No bird returns the human gaze with such intensity. But the listener must be careful not to confuse its hoot with the moaning of the mourning dove.

From the interview with David Allen Sibley:

Q: How do illustrations work with the poems in Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds?

David Allen Sibley: I’ve always been fascinated by how pictures and words work together, and that interaction is a really important part of how my books are structured. Poetry can evoke such strong feelings and images in our minds, it would be easy for a painting to conflict with that, in the same way that we recoil when the hero in a movie doesn’t look the way we pictured them from the book. My illustrations in this book are without much of a narrative and leave out lots of details that the viewer can fill in. They’re just portraits of the birds, so hopefully the reader can easily merge the image with the story being told in the poem. I think this works much better than if I had tried to “interpret” the poem and paint my personal vision of the poet’s work.

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