Thursday, 31 March 2016

A life lit up by birds

The Daily Telegraph has today published a lovely interview with Matt Merritt in anticipation of the publication of his new prose book, A Sky Full Of Birds. In the interview, Merritt explains the role of birdwatching after his sister's death. As a consequence, I've spent this afternoon with his first pamphlet, Making the most of the light, which is dedicated to Rebecca Merritt.

I've always been aware of the presence of birds in Merritt's poetry, but never before have I really managed to home in on how he interweaves them with human beings, how they illustrate our lives, how they light up his life.

Here are a few snippets:

"...the half-hidden wrecks, the drowned bells,
the constant sarcasm of the seagulls..."

"...late sun picks out
the blush on a wintering goosander's white breast,
where moments earlier there was only a man..."

"...two ravens tumbling
high above, then into the valley to lead us home..."

"...I can see your hall of mirrors smile,
and your eyebrows, an artic tern taking flight."

Birds are viewed from a human perspective, yet they also act as a refreshed and refreshing point of reference for human relations. They enrich Merritt's verse and add another integral layer of texture to one of the most interesting poets around.


  1. Dear Matthew

    I agree that Matt is both a great poet and a great ornithologist. As I write this I am watching a magpie pecking away at the seeds my neighbour has just planted. At first I thought that she was alone but luckily I spotted her mate skulking in the branches of a nearby tree.

    Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish

  2. By chance I was reading "Farther Away" by Jonathan Franzen (essays) last week and was surprised to read that he had a mid-life conversion to bird-watching - "around the time my marriage was breaking up ... I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about the environment ... then a funny thing happened to me. It's a long story, but basically I fell in love with birds ... And so, yes, I kept a meticulous list of the birds I'd seen, and, yes, I went to inordinate lengths to see new species"