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For the Man Who Taught Tricks to Owls -- David Wagoner

Guest poem sent in by Alan S Kornheiser
(Poem #1610) For the Man Who Taught Tricks to Owls
 You say they were slow to learn. The brains of owls
    Went down in your opinion through long hours
       Of unresponsive staring
 While you showed them how to act out minor parts
    In the world of Harry Potter. Come with me now
       Into the night, perch motionless, balanced
 On a branch above a thicket, where every choice
    Of a flight path is more narrow
       Than your broad wing-span, more jagged
 And crooked than patterns of interrupted moonlight
    On twigs and fallen leaves, where what you take
       In silence with claws and beak to stay alive
 Knows everything about you except your tricks,
    Except where you're going to be in the next instant
       And how you got there without anyone's help
-- David Wagoner
I don't know about you, but I find most of today's published poetry (ie,
poetry published in non-poetry magazines) either too predictable or too
private. Finally, here's one---from the current issue of The New
Republic---that is neither.

The Harry Potter stories feature owls who carry messages. To do this in the
movies, an "owl wrangler" has trained a number of owls to do various owl
tricks. Through the wonders of digital photography, these tricks are
multiplied, and one owl flying from here to there become dozens flying
within a vast building. You can watch the owls being trained and see their
flights become movies in a TV feature that's been shown on one or another of
the "Discovery-type" channels. It appears that the wrangler does not greatly
admire owl intelligence. It also appears that the poet does not greatly
admire wrangler intelligence.

Like all good nature poems, this one succeeds by being perfectly accurate in
describing the natural world and through that accuracy tells us about more
than just that world.

About the poet, I am embarrassed to say I knew nothing, nor do we have any
of his other works published. A search discloses the extent of my ignorance,
since David Wagoner (b. 1926) is a chancellor of the Academy of American
Poets and editor of the journal Poetry Northwest. The author of ten novels,
he has also written many volumes of poetry, the latest of which is Walt
Whitman Bathing (1996).

Alan Kornheiser


Here's the Academy of American Poets page on Wagoner:
  [broken link]

32 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Walter Mitty said...


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I really like the title of this poem. I think that it is something original and I would like to have a owl.

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