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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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Jim Kacian

Commentary: What Makes Us Fly

These many haibun feature the usual inspirations—new life, recent death, reminiscence, anecdote. No surprise, since these are the things that keep our lives moving forward. And of course our relationship to the world around us—in a word, nature. We will certainly continue with all these threads until they cease to have meaning for us, if that's even conceivable.

One thread, however, that consistently intrigues me—borne out of that last category—is the (especially British) response to specific birds. There is more than a simple reportage going on here, there is a genuine love of each variety, attempts to getting each exactly right in terms of note and plumage and, more, emotional impact. So rather than explicate any particular piece—most of these don't require any such handling—I would simply like to recommend to you several pieces in this issue. It's possible to visit earlier issues and find other such pieces, but not in the profusion that this particular selection seems to offer.

Claire Everett's "Nom de Plume" is a good place to start. The enjoyment she feels in sharing her birds with the reader is palpable, and in no time we feel on a nickname basis with them as well. Warren Gossett ("Reflections in the Reeds") uses his marsh birds as emblems to set a mood in which we are able to consider his own personal circumstance with greater depth. The exploitation of birds in Ruth Holzer's "Predators" gives us a frisson that very much charges the piece with her desired effect. Doris Lynch's "In Search of Owls" uses birds as the focal point to the understanding of human behavior, as, I suppose, all these do to different degrees. The presence of birds is central to the redemption sought in Suzanne Marshall's "Return to Fukushima." The appearance of a bird marks the culmination point for Owen Bullock in his collaborative piece (with Patricia Prime) "On Exhibition". Bird behavior takes Aron Rothstein outside his mind and back into the world in "Bathroom Reading." Bird song out-praises the contrived human music of Guy Simser's "In and Out," and is the harbinger of natural spring in his March 25th. A raft of ducks is the useful emblem against which human activity is gauged in Susie Utting's "The Bath." Two different birds are needed to suggest the musical synaesthesia of Diana Webb's "Solo". Bruce Ross finds a tiny bird serves his musings on the interconnectivity in "Waiting Too." And, as chance would have it, my own brief offering is about the joy of encountering birds—well, sort of.

That's a lot of birds, and it should be obvious that these creatures are more than our companions on the planet—they are our avatars, our mentors, our aspirations. We may have a thousand different desires which separate us, but in birds we find a common ground: we all want to fly.