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Birdwatching in Wartime


Carnegie Mellon University Press


Birdwatching in Wartime takes place around the globe, but finds its home in the rainforests of Costa Rica and Peru. The diverse and complexly layered environments of the neotropics are the perfect setting for these poems—both linguistically and atmospherically. Thomson explores the way questions of beauty, grief, and desire are filtered through particular landscapes and natural images, and along the way metaphor, memory, violence, and eros all combine to rewrite and alter the human experience of the natural world. As his poems break apart the traditional Linnean categories of natural history and drive the wedge of human memory and desire into the gaps, Thomson ultimately reveals and revels in the fact that the narratives we bring into the world color and shape that world to such an extent that we cannot easily judge what is the world and what the story.


Winner of the 2010 Maine Book Award in Poetry

and the 2011 ASLE Prize in Environmental Creative Writing


From the ASLE Award citation:


In Thomson's poetry collection, the animals are real and so is the singing. Whether mourning a wren killed by the atomic bomb or riffing on Borges, Thomson pays exquisite attention to creatures in literature and the world that might otherwise be lost, enriching our aesthetic and ethical life. Birdwatching gives the lie to the notion that formalism is devoid of passion by drenching its finely-wrought lines in sensual detail and biting intelligence. That it manages to be funny and experimental at the same time is a small miracle. Everyone who wonders about the fate of the green fire in American letters should read this book.

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