Because she’s blind, Emily K. Michael experiences birds through their songs and calls. As a birder and poet, she describes hearing three Northern Cardinals singing to each other, as she walked her dog.
April is Poetry Month in the US, and we asked Emily to share her poem, Trading Threes.
You can read more of Emily’s poetry in her book, Neoteny.
Emily K. Michael - Trading Threes
Written by Mark Bramhill
Mark Bramhill: This is BirdNote.
April is Poetry Month in the US, and we’re sharing some of our favorite poems about our feathered friends. Poet Emily K Michael is a birder — but, because she’s blind, she experiences birds through their songs and calls. Her poem, Trading Threes focuses on an everyday experience, taking her dog out and listening to Northern Cardinals:
Emily K. Michael: We would go out at night, just to relieve the dog. Totally unromantic experience, and you know, he's doing what he needs to do. And, I remember standing on my front lawn and hearing three cardinals calling to each other and realizing that by using where they were, I could sort of map the terrain in front of me. And that just felt so cool.
[NORTHERN CARDINAL SOUNDS THROUGHOUT]
Step out onto the lawn at dusk, dog leash
loose like reins in your fingers.
Over the quiet jingle of collar,
cardinal voices cross the yard.
Crisp patterns of two notes clinking
from separate trees, the cardinals stretch
the ee to oo. A line with two
repeats. The near bird calls,
gets an answer some way down the street.
A second response further away,
then back to the first. Touch of
overlap—another grabs on to that next
line. Always in the same key. No body
speeds up, slows down, backs off. All
volumes shaded by geography.
Mark Bramhill: Many of Emily’s poems look deeply at everyday experiences, taking joy and delight in the most unexpected of places.
Emily K. Michael: I just thought about how cool it was that, like, my street was an amphitheater for these birds and probably nobody else noticed them. I don't know if they did. But I think if you pay attention, there's moments like this. All throughout your life. You're outside walking the dog or getting the mail, and you hear this incredible sound that none of us can imitate. So I think that, when people read poetry, they should be invited to pay more mindful attention to the world that they're living in.
Mark Bramhill: You can read more of Emily’s poetry in her book, Neoteny. For BirdNote, I’m Mark Bramhill.
Music: Greyleaf-Willow by Blue Dot Sessions
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Gerrit Vyn.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2020 BirdNote April 2020 Narrator: Mark Bramhill
ID# michaelek-01-2020-04-21 michaelek-01