Book Review: The Hurting Kind

Most birdlovers are familiar with Keats' Ode to A Nightingale and Shelley's To A Skylark.

Both before and after them, countless other poets have been inspired, in hundreds of  different ways, by birds of many different kinds.

Among the most recent is the current U.S. poet laureate, Ada Limón who, in The Hurting Kind, returns to them again and again - her imagination sparked by sightings of species ranging from a belted kingfisher to magnificent frigate bird.

But whereas perhaps most poets, Keats and Shelley included, seem to have been inspired by the song of birds, it is their plumage and behaviour that capivates Limón in this new collection which is characterised by vivid imagery and introspection, sometimes sad but often hopeful and radiant.

In one delightful poem, her eye deceives her into mistaking fallen tawny-yellow mulberry leaves for goldfinches tumbling across the lawn.

Then, when she sees a group of field sparrows fly up into the branches, it is almost as if they are "leaves re-attaching themselves to the tree".

Limón, a Californian now living in Lexington, Kentucky, evidently sees birds in a different way from most people which, of course, is what makes her a poet - and a very fine one, at that.

The Hurting Kind is published at £12.99 by Corsair Poetry, a division of Little Brown, and is available wherever books are sold.