Two poems by Earle Birney

(Author’s note: Also see the Reflections on Birney in this site’s reflection category for more insight into these two beautiful works.)

Two poems by Earle Birney


a poem by Earle Birney

Madness and Exorcism of Poetry, c) 1974

He invented a rainbow but lightning struck it
shattered it into the lake-lap of a mountain
so big his mind slowed when he looked at it

Yet he built a shack on the shore
learned to roast porcupine belly and
wore the quills on his hatband

At first he was out with the dawn
whether it yellowed bright as wood-columbine
or was only a fuzzed moth in a flannel of storm
But he found the mountain was clearly alive
sent messages whizzing down every hot morning
boomed proclamations at noon and spread out
a white guard of goat
before falling asleep on its feet at sundown

When he tried his eyes on the lake ospreys
would fall like valkyries
choosing the cut-throat
He took then to waiting
till the night smoke rose from the boil of the sunset

But the moon carved unknown totems
out of the lakeshore
owls in the beardusky woods derided him
moosehorned cedars circled his swamps and tossed
their antlers up to the stars
then he knew though the mountain slept the winds
were shaping its peak to an arrowhead

And now he could only
bar himself in and wait
for the great flint to come singing into his heart

The Bear on the Delhi Road

The Bear on the Delhi Road
A poem by Earle Birney

Fall by Fury c) 1977

Unreal tall as a myth
by the road the Himalayan bear
is beating the brilliant air
with his crooked arms
About him two men bare
spindly as locusts leap

One pulls on a ring
in the great soft nose His mate
flicks flicks with a stick
up at the rolling eyes

They have not led him here
down from the fabulous hills
to this bald alien plain
and the clamorous world to kill
but simply to teach him to dance

They are peaceful both these spare
men of Kashmir and the bear
alive is their living too
If far on the Delhi way
around him galvanic they dance
it is merely to wear wear
from his shaggy body the tranced
wish forever to stay
only an ambling bear
four-footed in berries

It is no more joyous for them
in this hot dust to prance
out of reach of the praying claws
sharpened to paw for ants
in the shadows of deodars
It is not easy to free
myth from reality
or rear this fellow up
to lurch lurch with them
in the tranced dancing of men

~ by Chris Hibbard on November 19, 2008.

7 Responses to “Two poems by Earle Birney”

  1. heeeyy i like these poems 😉 🙂

  2. very happy to have finally found a copy of Bushed. thanks!!!

  3. thanku……..i hv dis poem is in ma corse bt din hv d text……….

  4. Thank you for your comment re: the poems of Earle Birney as submitted to my blog site. I must admit however, that I can only hope your writings/submissions for your course utilize more…. proper language than your submission as seen below. 🙂

    thanku……..i hv dis poem is in ma corse bt din hv d text……….

    Chris Hibbard

  5. Earle was my Chaucer prof in 1962; I discovered his poetry about the same time and became an avid fan in the years following. ” Bushed” is one of my favorites, and one of the best examples of the poet’s intensely felt fusion with the landscape.

  6. I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something that too few people are speaking intelligently about.
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  7. Reblogged this on Lawrie Gulston and commented:
    I visited Earle Birney at Massey College while he was writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto. He read my poems, encouraged me to continue writing, and suggested I join David Godfrey’s writers’ circle at Rochdale College, which I did. I began a Ph.D. thesis on Birney but regretfully never finished it.

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