Commonwealth of Wings: An Ornithological Biography Based on the Life of John James Audubon

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Wesleyan University Press, 1991 - Poetry - 60 pages
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Combining the best of poetry, nature writing, a biography, Pamela Alexander in her book-length “persona poem” brings to life John James Audubon and a world not yet aware of nature’s limits. She distills the essence of this remarkable naturalistic-artist and gives him voice to tell his life story in fragments and letters, journal entries, actual vignettes, and lyrical passages. Captivating, and accessible, her poem reads with the authority of autobiography, the dramatic coherence of a novel, and the evocative clarity of an Audubon print. The reader, briefly transported to the natural world of America a century and a half ago, cannot help but contrast its condition today and feel a poignant sense of loss.

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Commonwealth of wings: an ornithological biography based on the life of John James Audubon

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Audubon was a naturalist, an ornithologist, and an adventurer: "I am a collection of landscapes.'' Despite the title, these poems do not intend to stand as a biography. Alexander brings a touch of the ... Read full review


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About the author (1991)

PAMELA ALEXANDER won the Yale Younger Poet award in 1984 for Navigable Waterways (1985) and has published poems in the New Yorker and Atlantic. After writing short persona poems on Amelia Earhardt and Howard Hughes, she says, "I had an urge to write longer poems about unusual people." Her interest in Audubon dates in part from childhood, when her mother, a veteran birder, "talked to me about ecology decades before the word was commonly used." She currently teaches in the Writing Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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