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Poetry anthology to help raise awareness of endangered birds

Posted on 28 January 2019

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​​​​Creative Writing staff and alumni from Leeds Trinity University have contributed to an anthology to raise awareness of endangered birds and funds to help protect them.

The anthology, Watch the Birdie, includes 67 poems from 67 different poets, which focus on each of the birds on the RSPB's endangered list.

Poet Oz Harwick, Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University, Dr Amina Alyal, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, and Creative Writing alumni Gill Lambert, Kathleen Strafford and Hannah Stone each wrote a poem that has been published as part of the collection.

Dr Alyal, who was also involved with the anthology's illustrations, working with the artists to illustrate each poem, said:  "It was a privilege and at the same time quite sobering to be involved in a project like this. My bird – the ruff – is a picturesque dancing bird with a complex set of behaviours, and it's grim to think it might soon simply be wiped out, and the next generation never get to know it.

"But the anthology includes a couple of birds that have 'returned from the brink' and are no longer endangered, and also some profiles of ornithologists who have done great work towards preservation of species. The launch took place at RSPB Leighton, which is a nature reserve of managed wetlands and woodlands, housing many species of birds, plants and butterflies. So there is hope, and a book like this will hopefully help spread the word (and picture) a little bit." 

Leeds Trinity Creative Writing alumni Gill Lambert, Kathleen Strafford and Hannah Stone wrote poems on the cuckoo, kittiwake and turtle dove. Lecturers, Oz Hardwick and Amina Alyal wrote about the merlin and ruff.

Oz Hardwick, Poet and Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity, said: "It's not just canaries that warn us of danger: the bird population acts as a barometer of our physical environment, and we're not doing too well, with so many species identified as being at risk in the British Isles. My poem is on the merlin, which I linked to the prophetic aspect of the Merlin of Arthurian literature – my academic work focuses upon medieval art and literature, so it was the obvious choice for me."

Birds on the endangered list include the starling, house sparrow, nightingale, skylark, cuckoo, corncrake and black grouse.

The anthology was edited by Rebecca Bilkau and published by Beautiful Dragons Press.

Watch the Birdie, poems with something to squawk about, is available to purchase from Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve or online here priced £9.99. The money raised from sales will be donated to the RSPB.

Oz Hardwick's reading of the poem is available here along with an interview with the editor, Rebecca Bilkau.