Friday, February 01, 2013

Poetry Friday: A Murmuration of Starlings, and Mary Oliver, and Updike

This is a murmuration of starlings. 
I need say nothing about it. 
Just watch. 

This is from Mary Oliver's "Starlings in Winter":

... Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

(Read the whole poem here.)


And this is from John Updike's "The Great Scarf of Birds":

...And as
I watched, one bird,
prompted by accident or will to lead,
ceased resting; and, lifting in a casual billow,
the flock ascended as a lady’s scarf,
transparent, of gray, might be twitched
by one corner, drawn upward and then,
decided against, negligently tossed toward a chair:
the southward cloud withdrew into the air.

Long had it been since my heart
had been lifted as it was by the lifting of that great

(See the whole poem here, in The New Yorker archives.)


And, simply because I love them, here's a list of collective names for animal groups.

I like to make up new ones, too. Let's see ...

A collective name for poets? I suggest a pentameter of poets.

For bloggers ... hmmm. I think I'll call us a blather of bloggers.

For readers, a rondeau of readers.

Other ideas?


The Poetry Friday round up is at Teaching Authors.


Updated to note:
The above link to The New Yorker shows a different version of the poem -- an earlier one, I assume. The version with the final stanza I included can be found in Updike's Collected Poems, 1953-1993.


Updated again to add Tanita Davis's link to this Youtube video of Elbow performing Starlings.


jama said...

So beautiful . . . ("My heart in hiding stirred for a bird"). Hadn't seen the Updike poem -- perfect complement to Oliver and the video.

Thanks for the joy today!

Andromeda Jazmon Sibley said...

Yes! Thanks so much for this flight!

tanita davis said...


Frequently, when walking in Scotland we came across those... away from town, of course, but often, not too far away.

It is both unspeakably heart-lifting, and somewhat worrying to see that many birds suddenly take flight.

There is a song by an English band called Elbow (don't ask) called "Starlings" and it is ... simply... the orchestration even tries to swoop up like the flight of birds, and ... :sigh: it's all swoopy and romantic, too.

Thanks for the reminder of what a murmuration is, I love it.

Tabatha said...

I would like to contribute to your collective names -- how about a passion of poets? A peerage of poets? What about a lantern of librarians? I'm not sure a blather of bloggers could be improved upon.

Karen Edmisten said...

Jama, ah, beautiful Hopkins.

Tanita, wow! Thank you for that. (Quick fyi -- the link didn't go straight through, but w/out the "" prefix, you can get there from here.) I'd never heard Elbow -- loved that.

Tabatha, I love your collective suggestions. :)

Mary Lee said...

We were just watching starlings in the cold last night at sundown. "A murmuration of starlings" is so much nicer than what I usually call them: "bird blobs." :-)

Doraine Bennett said...

I love the one by Mary Oliver. So beautiful. I want to be...

April Halprin Wayland said...

Believe it or not, Karen, I am just getting to your post. SO GLAD I did--wow. I just posted a link to your post on FB.

Love Tabatha's contributions!

(Karen, could you fix the link to's Poetry Friday? It should go here:

Thanks and glad I stopped by!

Karen Edmisten said...

April, thanks for the heads-up on the link! Grrr, hate when I do that. :/ It's fixed. So glad you stopped by!