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Book Review :: All Morning the Crows by Meg Kearney

All the Morning Crows by Meg Kearney book cover image

Guest Post by James Scruton

Every poem in Meg Kearney’s All Morning the Crows has a bird for its title, from the exotic (“Parrot,” “Ibis,” “Ostrich”) to the local (“Oriole,” “Wren,” “Juncos”). Inspired, as Kearney notes in a preface, by Diana Wells’ 2002 book 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names, the collection is equally animated by the tension between the OED definitions of “bird” she offers at the start: not only the general term for any feathered species but also slang for “maiden, girl, a woman.”

The poems take their own flights, harrowing or defiant or tender. In “Albatross,” the speaker recalls the sailor “who approached you / on the beach, spoke to you as if you were / a woman, you in the new bikini / none of the boys back home had noticed.” She is “too flattered to flee, though / the constant surf said Leave, Leave.” “Duckling, Swan” tells the fable in the voice of the once-mocked hatchling, who later returned “aglow with my gleaming” and “blinded them all.” Part elegy, part inquiry into art’s power amidst the flux of living, “Pheasant” gives the collection its title, the bird here etched in cemetery granite, wings stretched and awaiting “a flight that never begins.” By contrast, “All morning the crows / have behaved badly,” the speaker observes, as if a parallel to the poet’s meager words in the face of loss.

By the end of the volume, a kind of narrative emerges that we may take as autobiographical. But the collection has a larger scope as well, testifying to the range of human feeling and to the resilience of the poetic voice itself.

All Morning the Crows by Meg Kearney. The Word Works, April 2021.

Reviewer bio: James Scruton’s most recent chapbook is The Rules (Green Linden Press, 2019).

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