Mochong sees her reflection in the sea
*Mariana Crow (Corvus kubaryi)
Song to curse the Industrial Revolution
*Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
A Queer Ornithology will be my third book of poems, and like my first, it is an exploration of a tangibly intangible thing, which is to say, a moment, a happening, an encounter blossoming into and returning to and folding back and exploding outwardly and unto the self. It is becoming more-so the archive of ongoing revelation than a gathering of sound, though there’s an abundance of precisely that. What I mean to say, more imprecisely, is that the title of this book alighted on my tongue when I became still enough to listen, rather than just quiet enough to hear. When I became a likely foliage on which tiny clawed feet might perch (but rarely do). I asked the birds to come, and to my skeptical delight, they came. But an invocation involves more than spectacle, and as I have found, it demands more than simple attention, more than even arboreal listening. The birds don’t need me to speak for them, no no. Rather, I call on them to carry my own speech, to scratch at the litter of my own contemplation, to feather something into the world of languages that after all, are all related.
I seek to offer an amendment. A revision. A much much much older lens…
For those who delight more in the seed of things, I can say that these poems investigate queer, genderfluid indigeneity, and interspecies-relational philosophy through deep observation of wild birds. I invite the birds to my garden via ceremonial invocation, dream, and a literal cultivation of habitat. The poems are influenced by my own observations, which I think are superbly scientific in nature, meaning guided by curiosity and hypotheses, and they further draw from historical ornithological and ontological texts (that, by the nature of their historicity, reflect Western practices of observing and cataloguing avian species and establishing so-called “standards” of natural philosophical thought). One might easily guess who’s missing from said history. I seek to offer an amendment. A revision. A much much much older lens, still acute and focusing here in modernity, as ever. A queer, indigenous lens, kaleidoscopic in all its apertures.
Research materials that stand in stark contrast to each other then, all things considered, include ornithological and theoretical texts like Pierre Belon’s Book of Birds (1555), Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology (1808), Florence Merriam’s Birds Through the Opera Glass (1890), Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, Tildeman and Cosler’s Ethno-ornithology, and Evan Pritchard’s Bird Medicine, Guampedia, and Dale Turner’s This Is Not a Peace Pipe.
Prose originally published on Submittable‘s blog, 4th June 2019, when the author was awarded a 2019 Eliza So Fellowship.
Author’s note: The poems are excerpts from a manuscript-in-progress titled A Queer Ornithology. They are each comprised of a still image of a birdsong spectrogram (sourced with written permission from the Cornell Library of Ornithology’s MacCaulay Library) and written text in English and CHamoru languages.
This is part of ROOT MAPPING, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring which maps might help us live with a clear sense of where we are. ROOT MAPPING is conceived and edited by Melanie Viets.