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The Names of Birds is a book of connected poems about birds, names, and perception. It is about how we see the "natural world". That is, how we approach what isn't us and name what we see. It also offers detailed observations of common North American birds.
Daniel Wolff has published numerous well-received nonfiction books, including a national best-seller that won the Ralph J. Gleason Award for the best music book in 1985. He was nominated for a Grammy in 2003 and was named Literary Artist of 2013 for Rockland County, New York. He has also collaborated on documentary films with Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), pop songs, and performance pieces.
"A beautiful book. Decisive and moving."
– Jonathan Galassi
"The poems in The Names of Birds aren't really about birds. Instead each individual species is a filter through which the human is seen, so that observation and introspection become overlaid and compounded acts. These poems show us the more accurately we can look outward, the more deeply we can see within our human selves."
– Lucia Perillo
"This poet ushers in a year's seasons by counting and naming 17 pages of birds for Fall; for Winter, only 7 actual birds as well as some featherless presences [in one poem, he sees instead of a bird a tanker!]; of course Spring returns to a good many birds, 12 in fact, though he sees blue jays twice; then Summer concludes with a mere 5 birds – what's going on here? You'll soon see if you read for yourself [take it slow: lots is told – learned, cherished, despised, even worshipped – besides those very real birds. Like that Horned Grebe, as the poet says:
His dive extends and still extends.
I leave. The water mends
behind me. Funny how the brain defends
desertion. It hears the cry the grebe [finally] sends
Birds and all, as you can see. I promise you, Daniel Wolff is a wonderful poet"
– Richard Howard
"Traveling the seasons with Daniel Wolff's stunning poetry collection is indeed a great gift. Big questions collide with nature's majesty here, moving us closer to see not just 'how the nest is attached to the tree' but how we are attached [or dis attached] to ourselves. The narrator of the poem 'Eastern Screech-Owl' declares that he is not an ancient poet, but there is so much heart and Art in these pages to show that neither he nor Wolff have to be. We are more than grateful for all they have already offered."
– Edwidge Danticat