Ann Fisher-Wirth is the author of five previous collections of poetry. Her fifth book, Mississippi, is a poetry/photography collaboration with Maude Schuyler Clay (Wings Press 2018). With Laura-Gray Street, she co-edited The Ecopoetry Anthology (Trinity UP, 2013). Her work appears in such journals as Prairie Schooner, diode, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Her awards include two Mississippi Arts Commission fellowships and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Award. She was also awarded a 1994-1995 Fulbright to Fribourg, Switzerland, and was 2002-2003 Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies at Uppsala, Sweden. She has had residencies at Djerassi, Hedgebrook, Mesa Refuge, and CAMAC in France, and was the 2017 Anne Spencer Poet in Residence at Randolph College. A senior Black Earth Institute fellow and member of the board, she teaches and directs the Environmental Studies minor at the University of Mississippi, and also teaches yoga in Oxford, Mississippi.
The Bones of Winter Birds is a book of belonging and of seeking, ribboned through with the copious steamy heat of the South and of the body—“salt-stained, rain-scarred, the body wants its forgetfulness and honey.” Love comes in lines of grief and fear, but these poems are also built on the very satisfying nestling-in to ordinary life. Throughout, Fisher-Wirth finds a melancholic reckoning. “Like a summer creek the mother dries up / in me…Enough. All that worrying. // Clawfoot, bone, beak and feather: now let be.” Her explorations embed salvaged memories and family concerns, with one rich section devoted to an older sister who didn’t want to be known. This collection is unafraid to share longing and loss equally.
The Bones of Winter Birds is much about loss, as its title announces: grief attenuates the world, and so doing reveals its most intricate architecture. In Fisher-Wirth’s poems, however, this process is compensated by an attendant richness. What vanishes returns, in memory and in dream; what remains is simply life itself, which concentrates and takes on luminosity. “He screams once,” one poem begins, and another, “Here you see a treasure.” These are the poles of this book. The bones of birds are delicate, and invisible while the creature lives. Like these poems, they are fragile and incisive and essential. This is a lovely and moving book.
—T. R. Hummer
Like “sunlight stroking the birds’ throats so it comes out as song,” Ann Fisher-Wirth’s graceful and sturdy lines unsettle the seemingly familiar. A writer of moral gravity, her distilled attentiveness presses against our all-too-common ambivalence and detachment from the ordinary world. Whether set in Mississippi, California, the Ozarks, or France, the poems in The Bones of Winter Birds exhibit an abundance of compassion and civility. As Fisher-Wirth praises, laments, lets go, language salvages what might otherwise be missed. It’s with attentiveness and emotional poise that these poems lay everything bare. Despite fear and everyday darkness, “I think we are provided for” she reminds us, a consolation for which I am grateful. This is a beautiful book.