on 26 September 2001
J.D. McClatchy, a superb poet and the editor of The Yale Review, has put together a number of landmark anthologies over the years, including the Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry and Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry. For the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series, he has co-edited an anthology of Christmas Poems with John Hollander. And, most recently, he has edited the Library of America's outstanding edition of the poems of Longfellow. But perhaps nowhere has he brought his refined taste and peerless editorial acumen to bear more beautifully than on this Everyman edition of some of the finest poems about birds in the English language-ON WINGS OF SONG.
McClatchy sets the tone for this collection in his elegant foreword... Keenly aware of emblematic types and the categories that they fall into, McClatchy carefully arranges the anthology accordingly. The list of poets that grace this anthology include many timeless masters, ranging from Virgil to Chaucer, from Wordsworth to Yeats, and from Poe to Frost.
The great Romantic era poems about birds, such as Shelley's "To a Skylark" and Keats's "To a Nightingale" are duly included, but the surprises in the collection are numerous. Among my favorites is a little-known four-line poem by the Anglo-Indian poet Vikram Seth, entitled "Pigeons"...A number of the poems are also downright funny. Chief among these is X.J. Kennedy's sardonic "Vulture": "...
McClatchy does a masterful job of arranging the poems in a manner that refreshes and surprises the reader at every turn. ON THE WINGS OF SONG is a must have on every birdwatcher's and verse lover's shelf.