He gassed them in his closet, then he pinned their wings, feathers splayed like pick a card, any card. He posed them in plastic trees, and after his brush had cadmiumed the throat of hummingbird, whitewashed the spoonbill, he roasted and swallowed the loves of his life. ~ from “Audubon Ate His Birds”
I first met Kristin Robertson in a graduate poetry course we both took from Marilyn Kallet (another poet well worth knowing) at the University of Tennessee. This was more than twenty years ago, but even then, her way of capturing a transformative moment in all its human strangeness while connecting it beautifully to natural images struck me as a talent few of us will ever achieve. Her book Surgical Wing won the Alice James Book Award and was published in 2017, and it illustrates the poet’s fondness of the bird as a symbol for a variety of human experiences, including the contradictory phenomena of freedom and entrapment. Her poems are at times mystical and mysterious, at times grounded in earthy worlds of loss, business, food and drink and cigarettes, but the music of her language and the surprising trajectories of each poem often leave the reader stilled and stunned, like a bird tossed by a storm.