Bird Lovers, Backyard, Thalia Field

New Directions, 2011 Reviewed by G.R.O.A.N.

Some generous instinct to1 receive, to read; incipient2 form as support3 of flight, of further4 investigation; or,5 a lush trajectory6 that must be met7.

1Question what we’re doing: the deliberate act of approach is the surest way to frighten off most anything so peevish as a book (or a bird that, somehow, strays near) that catches, in some glimpse, our attention. And it seems like a generous act, to stray near. And so how does one approach so generous a book (in the sense that it’s generative) without infringing on its act of infringing, its approach, the act that first caused our attention to be caught? But without snare. Something other-than. And so we as a group decided to do as little as possible with Thalia Field’s Bird Lovers, Backyard, to sit with it, alongside, to observe the unfolding of a mosaic-like language asserting itself, against space, and together. But that isn’t enough, so it was up to us to sketch a quick lattice of investigatory jabs, or to conjure tenuous glue so that we might pin down, however briefly, what instinctually resists approach. But what also instinctually strays into our line(s) of sight, the spaces we consider most personal. 2 A book of beginnings (one entry ((“Crossroads”)) stutters entirely under the banner of “Chapter One”) that insists on opening rather than closing; the sections themselves are whittled from excerpts of past sense- making, almost always beginning from a thing made porous: a question, a remark, a nearly-innocuous observation. The forms contained within this book aren’t hyperconscious genre-blobs that hunger to be different for difference’s sake, but delicate coils of language designed simply to undertake an assertion of itself and its surroundings, this vast interaction, resulting in what 19th-century zoologists might have considered an "incipient species” — a combinatory thickening of received information, a body deftly capturing, retrieving, and rearticulating in its very species (the impressions put upon it), its very build, the clatter of reactive stances, statements, vantages and the attendant questions of aftermath. What we receive and what we make of it. To allow the reception and the consideration and so, so on. Piles of importance elapsing into a dance/collage of colliding points (or in Field’s case, generally writing, lines) of entry, building blocks that come without any instruction other than themselves. She’s carved a rare thing: a cave that wants to resonate. Or a backyard, out of what materials were around, where minor seclusions, the brief ownership of sight, or little approaches between species could take place, out in the semi-open. Bounded field. 3 Systems of brief collapse, an unsettling of sediment and response; and what manages to cling, together, provides a step—; but a step is also a ledge and so as one reads, one falls, and Field’s cunningly jagged structures allow one to pour down the length of the page, only to suddenly, unexpectedly, arrive at a height of resonance. These parts resemble without strict imitation, like living blocks of erosion, like the curve of important stones, and like, as strong. 4 Query, a language unsnared; birds, like this book, capture us by other means: the distant grip of intrigue, the way their gestures of soar draw our eyes across what surrounds us, injecting it with movement, reminding us of pattern and arc. 5 An act of watching the watchers, or, more importantly, their conclusions, the ways in which they relate their watching to the world afterward. The back flap refers to the work as “an interrogation of the act of storytelling”, but it is an interrogation in the way a bird interrogates the sky; darting in and out of it, carving a path with and through this vortex of concern, testing the wind, its shape, vaulting from vantage to vantage. 6 Of growth, a growth of shape. And as shape is what we determine the world from, those elementary blocks of possible information, they become desirable to the seeker. But we inhabit our confusions as much as our advances, which scatter the diagram, refusing to yield either the originary form or its logical conclusion. And Field’s is an interactive book in that it wrests with source, with these blurred origins in the manner of a cold-case optometrist, putting earlier investigation, earlier sight, under the lens, seeking the path of the shaped, quietly tracing deep veins of resemblance. In this book, even our confusions are too precious to allow their extinction. They must remain charted, and we. 7 How does one introduce oneself to such a work? How near can we get to a book this swift? We don’t know how. But because it can feel our presence, it has the unique ability to get near us, approaching, self- determined, reacting against capture.

--- THALIA FIELD's books with New Directions also include Point and Line (2000) and Incarnate:Story Material (2004). She is the author of the novel, ULULU (Clown Shrapnel), published by Coffee House Press (2007), and with Abigail Lang, A Prank of Georges (Essay Press, 2010). Thalia teaches in the Literary Arts department of Brown University. --- G.R.O.A.N. is a collaborative-action imprint currently based in the Netherlands. They can be contacted at: