Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Prompt #213 – Tell It to the Birds

Everyone likes birds. 
What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears,
 as close to us and everyone in the world, 
as universal as a bird (David Attenborough)

Note: I had some issues with this prompt when I first posted it on Saturday. Title and links font colors changed to an awful neon blue and, no matter how I tried, I couldn't correct them. After much "fiddling" about, and some great advice from our friend Diane Lockward, I deleted the post and have redone it. The blog seems to have "righted" itself, and all seems okay. I apologize to those of you who left comments, which were lost with the first post. Maybe you won't mind re-posting them? Thanks, dear readers, for your patience!

I’ve always loved birds (they appear frequently in my poems), and I raised small exotic birds for many years. Although I don't have any exotics living in the house with me now, I feed the backyard birds, especially during the cold months, and I always look forward to seeing them—from the nondescript sparrows to the brilliant cardinals.

This week, I’d like you write create a poem in which you direct your comments (a kind of monologue) to a bird. You may be serious or humorous, but the idea is to come up with a theme that somehow relates to or juxtaposes bird life and human life. For example, some possible themes might include freedom, flight/flying, providing for children, and not wanting to be caged (literally or figuratively).


Think of all the bird species you know and select one (i.e., sparrow, lark, robin, canary, zebra finch, parrot, macaw, hawk, egret, heron, mourning dove, early bird, night owl, phoenix, stork).

Make a list of things that you might say to a bird—work toward a single theme and stick to that theme.

Write a poem in which you talk to a bird-member of the species you chose.

An alternative might be to address comments to more than one bird (that reminds me of the story about St. Francis of Assisi and how he preached to a flock of birds).

Or, you might want to try a conversation with a bird in which you and the bird speak to one another (dialogue rather than monologue).

You may prefer a humorous approach and address a bird that dropped a little “something” on your shoulder or head, the stork that delivered your son or daughter, the crow that stole a piece of your jewelry, or the parrot (parakeet) that learned a few naughty words.


Think in terms of no more than a 12-15 lines.

Don’t spend a lot of time in describing the bird—focus on what you have to say to it.

Depending on which source you consult, you’ll find that various birds are symbolic of different qualities. Here are a few general ideas:

Doves symbolize peace.
Eagles symbolize power, resurrection, and courage.
Cranes symbolizes long life and immortality.
Falcons symbolize protection.
Nightingales symbolize love and longing.
Sparrows symbolize hope, gentleness, and intelligence.
Swans symbolize gracefulness and beauty.
Herons symbolize self-reliance and determination.
Hawks symbolize guardianship, illumination, and truth.
Woodpeckers symbolize magic and prophecy.
Robins symbolize joy, hope, and happiness.
Cardinals symbolize loved ones who have passed.
Crows symbolize trickery, cunning, and theft.



  1. So sorry you had issues with the original posting. Sometimes a bad code can wreak havoc. So glad it's all sorted out now.

    And ... I love the prompt. I talk to my finches all the time. They're good listeners and often chirp back.

    1. Thanks, Jamie! I'm sure you're right about there having been a bad code somewhere in the original post—very likely the image or one of the links.

      I always had "conversations" with my birds. I haven't birds now, and I really miss their cheerful songs.

  2. Woodpecker

    red and black
    mystical connections
    to indians
    and birds

    red and black
    black and red
    high school colors

    celtic symbols
    of woodpecker
    and oak

    energetic threads
    through eternal time
    red and black

    patterns of
    ancient totems

    centuries of positive protections
    any predatory threats

    1. Thanks so much for re-posting, Risa! I really like this poem and the way you use color to underscore meaning. Yes, the Rahway Indians, red-headed woodpeckers, and the cardinals your poem brought to mind for me. So many patterns and symbols of the past ...

      Well done, as always!

    2. Very nice, Risa! The imagery is wonderfully visual, though I don't quite understand what the Rahway Indians were or are (something to do with high school?).

      I especially like the way you began with a woodpecker and moved into a completely different content. The brief lines give the poem a staccato feeling that brings to mind the pecking sound of a woodpecker. Color, image, and sound -- all so skillfully woven into the way the poem uses space.

    3. Thanks, Jamie and Adele. The Rahway Indians were from the Rawack Indians who lived along the river where our town Rahway eventually grew; they were our mascot for our High School and the colors were red and black. I say our, meaning me and Adele's high school!

  3. Thanks, Adele! I tried this in my classroom and gave the students the option of addressing their poems to any animal (Tell It to the Aardvark, Tell It to the Buffalo). We got some interesting results.