The Names of Birds Front Cover

paper • 72 pages • 15.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-935536-52-9

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The Names of Birds

Daniel Wolff


A field guide to perception, The Names of Birds is about how we see the “natural world.” That is, how we approach what isn’t us and name what we see. It also offers detailed observations of common North American birds.

“Common Crow,” from The Names of Birds:

I could name this Worship, this

call from somewhere in the top of the elm.

Could point to the obvious strain of the caller:

head lowered, tail rising, gross throat stretched.

Could declare that prayer was as common and coarse

as need. And what would that make me?

  • "A beautiful book. Decisive and moving." -- Jonathan Galassi
  • "The poems in The Names of Birds aren't really about birds. Instead each individual species is a filter through which the human is seen, so that observation and introspection become overlaid and compounded acts. These poems show us the more accurately we can look outward, the more deeply we can see within our human selves." -- Lucia Perillo
  • "This poet ushers in a year's seasons by counting and naming 17 pages of birds for Fall; for Winter, only 7 actual birds as well as some featherless presences (in one poem, he sees instead of a bird a tanker!); of course Spring returns to a good many birds, 12 in fact, though he sees blue jays twice; then Summer concludes with a mere 5 birds -- what's going on here? You'll soon see if you read for yourself (take it slow: lots is told -- learned, cherished, despised, even worshipped -- besides those very real birds. Like that Horned Grebe, as the poet says: 'His dive extends and still extends. / I leave. The water mends / behind me. Funny how the brain defends / desertion. It hears the cry the grebe (finally) sends / as laughter.' Birds and all, as you can see. I promise you, Daniel Wolff is a wonderful poet." -- Richard Howard
  • "Traveling the seasons with Daniel Wolff's stunning poetry collection is indeed a great gift. Big questions collide with nature's majesty here, moving us closer to see not just 'how the nest is attached to the tree' but how we are attached (or dis attached) to ourselves. The narrator of the poems 'Eastern Screech-Owl' declares that he is not an ancient poet, but there is so much heart and Art is these pages to show that neither he nor Wolff have to be. We are more than grateful for all they have already offered." -- Edwidge Danticat
  • "This intimate four-season field guide by birdwatcher and Rockland County Literary Artist of 2013 Daniel Wolff fact-checks avian phenomena against human emotion, unifying observation and experience." Read the full review.
  • “At times, these poems remind me of Wallace Stevens at his most quizzical. But while Stevens posited 13 ways of looking at a blackbird, Wolff can tease out the same tensions, unfolding contradictions and beauty from one fleeting glimpse or the excited trill of one snatch of song as it collides in the mind with the distress calls of a distant siren.” Read the full review.
  • "As an organic whole, Daniel Wolff’s The Names of Birds is a brilliant tribute to the natural world and the birds who make their appearances to us during various times of the yearly seasonal cycle. These poems are a vivid demonstration of just how keenly the power to observe the outer world of nature informs our self-knowledge of who we are as human beings. Above all, the poems reinforce the ineffable beauty of human perception when coupled with the majestic manifestations of the natural world. To see is to love, and to love is to participate in the awesome mystery of life on earth. " Read the full article in the July 23, 2015 edition of The Journal.
  • "Wolff transforms sensory experiences into a string of neverending questions, each subjectively answerable by assimilating the subtle truths of the natural world." Read the full review.
  • "Fortunately, Wolff does not presume to know, or at least doesn’t offer, any answers. Instead, he allows us a spot beside him as he birdwatches and, through his observations, gives us a glimpse into his own process of understanding loss. The poems are quiet, generous, and sensitive." Read the full review.
  • "These poems quick scrabble over the page with such easy delight and elan that you are convinced the wisdom is real. The final feeling you are left with upon completing The Names of Birds is a akin to witnessing the murmuration of starlings. And it is a damned good feeling." — Michael Dennis Read the full review.