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Poetry Quarterly Summer 2016
Haiku Journal issue #44
Souls Cleaner Than Ours by Michael Flanagan
Blackbird Songs by Katie Sullivan Hughbanks
Peacocks get attention. When people visit a park or zoo, these beautiful birds demand to be noticed. They puff out their chests and spread their glorious feathers for others to admire and envy. But do folks awed by the peacock stop to listen to other birds singing? Do park visitors even notice the calls of the grackles, cowbirds, starlings? Most likely, no. In Blackbird Songs, birds act as metaphor. We notice the peacocks; we listen to these showy folks and are dazzled by their physical beauty. But what about the blackbird? Isn’t there profundity and depth in her voice? Shouldn’t she be heard as well?
This is the premise of Blackbird Songs by Katie Sullivan Hughbanks. The poems featured in the collection celebrate individuality, spirituality, survival, optimism; they call for voices to sing out, to be lifted above the collective din. The book’s poetry frequently uses birds and other images from nature as motif to reveal both the natural world and human society and to explore how these two converge and interplay. Reflecting on themes of self-image, forgiveness, loss of innocence, and more, the poems in Blackbird Songs are each distinctly different but share the quality of accessibility so that every reader can make meaning – multiple meanings – from the writing, and by the end of the collection, enjoy a sense of hope and peace.
And if readers appreciate the grackles, cowbirds, and starlings a bit more, well, that’s a plus.
Katie Sullivan Hughbanks graduated with a Master of Education degree from the University of Louisville and has taught literature and writing for 22 years at Assumption High School in Louisville, Kentucky. She spends every moment she can writing, hiking, singing, dancing, birdwatching, and admiring dogs of all types. Her family includes her husband, daughter, son, and stepdaughter.
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