Book Review :: Some Days the Bird by Bourbeau and Casey
Guest Post by Jami Macarty
Some Days the Bird by Heather Bourbeau (HB) and Anne Casey (AC) is an epistolary exchange written between Northern California and Sydney, Australia in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Bourbeau puts it in “The letting,” the poem-letters track the “conjunction” of how “People have become numbers, corridors are morgues” with “the tenacious need of green to grow.” In “Coastal descent,” Casey adds her “changing / tableau” from Australia’s “megafires” and “wreckage.” There’s the feeling from these pandemic dispatches, from their different continents and opposite seasons, that the description of each poet’s physical and natural surroundings offers solace, connection, and awareness; a saving formula, as Bourbeau writes in “This is not an inauguration poem” against “heat and fire and fear.” Throughout the exchange, the poets look more carefully, more completely at flowers, insects, and animals, at the “never before noticed” (“Equinox,” HB).
A high point in the exchange came via the corresponding poems “Our Prime Minister stands by” (AC) and “Pause” (HB), where the poets confront “gendered violence” (AC) and “value” (HB). In her poem, Casey takes on “this country // long at war with / its women”; while Bourbeau notes “Next week will mark my menopause.” I hoped for more of this direct engagement “with things we have been taught / are not worth savoring, / hold no value” (“Pause,” HB), but the poems relegated these gender concerns to subtlety and foregrounded lockdown, exile from family, daughters’ relationships to fathers, and Mother Nature: “this messy line between accustomed / and detached” (“Richter’s scale,” HB). Regardless of what I hoped for, Some Days the Bird is Heather Bourbeau’s and Anne Casey’s “song / of survival” (“Days of wild weather,” AC), “their song of freedom” (“Season’s greetings,” AC) across a “relentless distance” (“Solstice,” HB).
Some Days the Bird by Heather Bourbeau and Anne Casey. Beltway Editions, 2022.
Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems appear. More at https://jamimacarty.com/