Monday, April 17, 2017

Birdsong, A Celebration of Bruny Island Birds

"Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers"
Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and I spent it on Bruny Island in Southern Tasmania. I had been invited by Bruny Island Arts to hold an 'in conversation' event with Pete Hay, a man whose poetry and other work sings of Tasmania like no other. He's a teacher, an elder, and a rum'un, and delightfully rich pickings for the likes of me, generous with his considered conversation. At some point Pete mentioned that the most electric energy anywhere in the world is where the sea meets the land. A forcefield on every island. 

I was reminded of this gorgeous book, a delightful hardcover that includes the work of some of Tasmania's best poets and visular artists. Here is a review, first published in Warp, 2016.

Birdsong
A Celebration of Bruny Island Birds
This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book of words and art that, as the title suggests, celebrates the birds of Bruny Island. It has been edited by Anne Morgan (poetry), Victoria King (art and design) and John Cameron (essays) and it starts with a quote from Yevgeny Yevtushenko, “Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers”.
It is the second edition, this time in hardcover and it includes work from some of Tasmania’s (and beyond) best known and loved writers and artists including Ron Moss, Michael Leunig, Janet Fenton, Don Knowles, Lyn Reeves, Jane Williams, Pete Hay - and I could really go on writing the names of each contributor, the work contained is so rich, and such a considered celebration of an island that means so many different things to different people.
It does not do the book justice to single out contributors, but I must make mention of Pete Hay’s poem White Faced Heron with its almost perfect structure, the kind of poem that leaves you sadder, richer, wiser, and finishes with the lines

“The heron stays its stately hunt:
its stark eye skewers dusk.”
This poem is accompanied by a print from digital image by Barbara Tassell ‘A Common Elegance- White Faced Heron’ a gentle and wise juztaposition.
Adrienne Eberhard’s lyrical and warm poem ‘Fledglings, Wood Ducks’ is typeset around a beautiful pastel drawing from Tasmanian writer, elder and artist, Janet Fenton, called simply Wood Ducks. It is drawn in a singular blood red and captures the “peep, peep, peep” of the birds, onomatopoetically referred to in Eberhard’s poem.
“Black Swan Event, Adventure Bay” by Anne Morgan talks of place, of land and shore and history, alongside the currency of day to day life on the island, the poet kayaking

“I hunch to glide
between concrete piers
Dodging lines of hopeful fishers,”

The book also contains essays and a wonderful collection of photographs of all the endemic species of birds on the island by Chris Tzaros.
Bruny Island is one of the many magical places and one of the hundreds of islands off the coast of Tasmania, a major tourism attraction and also home to some of the best cruising waters for sailors in the world. It is also home not only to vibrant and in twelve cases, endemic, bird life, but to an annual Bruny Island Bird Festival.

This is a book whose motivations are not simply to inspire the soul through words and images, it is a book whose profits are turned into research – in this case, research into ways to mitigate predation threats to the critically endangered, hollow-nesting Swift Parrot, a lovely bird whose habitat has been under destruction for many years from forestry in the state. Future profits will fund community education around cat management on the island. 

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