This collection reads as if a Victorian composer, carrying her valise of new operetta libretti, collided in the street with a watchmaker, his briefcase of sketches for a new time-keeping device, and a genderfluid astronomer toting the patent forms for a mechanised solar model made of blown egg shells and bird skulls. Their papers, shuffled together by misdirected desires, unspoken and even unconscious intentions, lead to an entirely new work — a sheaf of pages where the negative space of silence speaks as pressingly as the shape of song.
I often think of Emily Dickinson when I read Alison Glenny. There are the same provoking gaps and absences, the same particular gaze; and always — to adapt one of Alison Glenny’s own phrases — the steady habit of turning starlight into song.
Counterpointing lyrical prose poems with notes and glosses written in the manner of a formidable antiquarian scholar, Alison Glenny’s Bird Collector makes you feel like you’re attending an elite school in a land of dreams. This is a book that interrogates tradition, literature, and human–ecosystem interactions with equal dexterity. Light, shadow, birds, paper, ash, and sky flicker beckoningly across the pages as we watch carefully, holding our metaphorical butterfly nets, ready to put the best specimens in scientific cabinets. This book will be welcomed by every reader who loves precision as much as imagination.