Donika Kelly and the Bowerbird



Donika Kelly and the Bowerbird

Written by Mark Bramhill

Mark Bramhill: That is BirdNote.

Quite a few years in the past, poet Donika Kelly was attempting to determine learn how to date, when she noticed a nature documentary a couple of bowerbird.

[Clip of David Attenborough from BBC documentary]: “In relation to jewels, blue is undoubtedly his favourite…”

Mark Bramhill: Male Satin Bowerbirds will collect all of the blue gadgets they will discover, construct an exquisite construction known as a bower, and do a dance to attempt to woo the females. And this caught her consideration.

Donika Kelly: And so I turned to the birds trigger they are much smarter than I’m about this stuff. They’ve, they’ve techniques in place. Uh, and I believed there may be some consolation, uh, in having, having a system of my very own. I simply want that there was like a dance I might do. After which like a girl can simply be like, sure, no. And I am be like, “okay, nice!” Let’s simply be clear. Um, however that was, uh, that is, that is not likely how that works.

Mark Bramhill: And this impressed a sequence of poems reflecting on the bowerbird, and this concept of courtship:


Contemplate the bowerbird and his obsession
of blue, after which the island gentle, the acacia,
the grounded beasts. Right here, the iron odor of blood,
the candy marrow, fields of grass and bone.

And there, the bowerbird.
Watch as he manicures his garden, places everywhere
a little bit of blue, a turning leaf. After which,
how the feminine finds him,
missing. All that blue for nothing.

Donika Kelly: The second shares the identical title, it kind of creates a hyperlink the place I haven’t got to refer. It— the sequencing kind of permits the poem to construct in numerous type of approach or resonate in a distinct type of approach. And it is pushed slightly bit extra by sound, just like the repetition of the O sounds: “groomed floor, his wooing place.” And I feel that that motion into sound helps me, kind of, then work out, oh, is that this what I am taken with? It offers that kind of bridge between the originary expertise of watching the documentary after which why I really feel compelled to spend time with this hen and with this picture.


The bowerbird finds
a bluer eye to line his nest,
his groomed floor,
his wooing place.

The bluer eye does break
and weep when the bowerbird
leaves or brings
leaves or branches or bits
of easy blue string.

The bluer eye does look and look
and flinch on the open beak,
the slim maw,
the trauma of being dug
deeper into the arched
and shutting bower.

The bowerbird has misplaced
his sense of blue, his sense
of eye, however the string tangles,
superbly, on his darkish, clear grounds.

Mark Bramhill: And with the third and ultimate a part of this sequence, the speaker of the poem speaks to us straight to deal with the concept of wooing a accomplice, and the way it can really feel international, as if she is a distinct species.

Donika Kelly: I feel one of many issues that the speaker is aware of is that she just isn’t a bowerbird, proper? And there is  this sense of resignation. Like who will hearken to the music of a nutbrown hen, proper? Like that is not who does the singing. That is not who does the wooing.


A small hat, the fedora,
gray-blue banded tweed, 
sits atop an unkempt nest,

my unpicked hair, a bromeliad 
within the cover. This
is a failure,

this ill-fitted hat. These boy issues. 
These males issues. This hurried 
disrobing. My ashen physique

and untrimmed nails. However who will pay attention
to the music of a nutbrown hen?

Donika Kelly is the creator of two books of poetry, Bestiary and The Renunciations. Yow will discover hyperlinks to these, and extra episodes with nice poetry, at our web site I am Mark Bramhill.


Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content material Director: Allison Wilson
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Bird sounds offered by The Macaulay Library of Pure Sounds on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Satin Bowerbird ML 31901801 recorded by A. Spencer.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and performed by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote    April 2022       
Narrator: Mark Bramhill

ID# poetry-02-2022-04-13        poetry-02


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