Sunday, June 10, 2012

"An Accessible and Riveting Collection"


Good news for A Bird Black As the Sun! This week the Los Angeles Review posted a review of the anthology online. The direct link is here; the full text of the review also appears below. Thanks to Joe Ponepinto, Book Review Editor, for his support and to Doug Ramspeck for his insightful and supportive review.

The anthology is available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, and can be ordered from any bookstore. Some bookstores carrying it include Vroman's in Pasadena; Kepler's in Menlo Park; Books Inc. in San Francisco; Chaucer's in Santa Barbara; Lyon Books in Chico; and Rainbow Stew in Yucca Valley.

A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens
Poetry, Edited by Enid Osborn and Cynthia Anderson
ISBN-13: 978-061553632-3
Green Poet Press, 2011
$15.00, 161pp.
Reviewed by Doug Ramspeck

Crows and ravens appear often as the trickster in aboriginal myths. Indeed, Native American tribes have historically associated the birds not only with the mischievous and the sacred, but with shape-shifting. It is no surprise, then, that the diverse poems in A Bird Black as the Sun run through shapes ranging from the playful, through the ominous, to the spiritual. This is not to say, of course, that the collection does not begin to coalesce around identifiable themes and motifs. The final poem, for example, “What the Crow Said,” by Michael Hannon, addresses, in three brief lines, one of the primary concerns of the book:

Though friendly to magic
I am not a man disguised as a crow.

I am night eating the sun.

Although a certain portion of the poems in this collection personify crows and ravens, reading into their existence our own human shape, more often these birds are represented as the “other,” or, perhaps more precisely, represented as the other that resides inside us, that part of our own nature that is primitive, often unnerving, and inaccessible. For example, in “Giving Birth to Ravens,” by ellen, the “woman” in the poem is described as existing in a “pre-natural state.” In “Bird of Paradox,” by Glenna Luschei, we read the line, “I understood now why Raven / stole the sun”; and in “Lasswade, Midlothian: Dusk,” by Cecilia Woloch, we learn that “Here is a world / that is just as the world was world / before we named it world.”

In the Haida creation myth, the Raven persuaded the first people to emerge from a great clam shell. In A Bird Black as the Sun—an accessible and riveting collection—crows and ravens coax from the page the human story and landscape, while still maintaining their own elemental mystery.