Birds: Daily Dose of Poetry and Art

Birds: Daily Dose of Poetry and Art

The Magpie by Claude Monet
The Magpie by Claude Monet

I picked up this volume of poetry, Carving Myself: Poems from a Vermont Woodcarver (copyright 1977), at a used book store or book table or something. I no longer remember where I acquired it. It’s a signed copy. The poet is from Vermont and is– or was– a woodcarver as well as a carver of words and the book is illustrated with photos of his carvings. I can’t find any more information about him online, the only hits on his name are for copies of the book on sale. But I really liked this poem and I hope wherever he is, William F. Herrick doesn’t mind. The thing is I think it’s too beautiful not to share, not to have a wider audience than the few people who might stumble across this self-printed book which came out almost 40 years ago. I love the way he observes so carefully and makes the scene live. I love the surprise and life of it.


by William F. Herrick

I never thought of a bird’s breathing
until on this late December morning
sun and air were proper
for teaching and a warning.

They were all there:
winter sparrows, hairy woodpeckers,
doves– I can’t be too specific,
but as I told O’Brien,
love’s seldom scientific.

I went to freshen up the spread
but they flew away,
not, I trust, with dread
of my coming. I’m fairly harmless,
and walk softly, humming.

They made a high dark ring
in the branches–
a nervous halo of sound.

I wanted them to land
singing, on the ground
or on my hand.
But I’ve been awhile knowing
there’s little hope of growing
new saints on my land.

One left his branch
and on a thread
swung to earth
and back again.

He made a single note,
paused, ’til it was gone,
then raised his head
to make a longer song.

And then I saw
his white mist of breath,
hanging smoke-quiet
against a black and distant oak,
a fragile wisp of air,
and for an instant
all I knew
was breath
and song.

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  • What an awe-inspiring moment! And I love your choice of painting. The last lines-
    ‘and for an instant
    all I knew
    was breath
    and song.’
    remind me of some of the medieval paintings of the Annunciation where Gabriel’s message/Word/breath/spirit come out of his mouth in a stream of golden words that flow into Mary’s ear.

    • William F. Herrick’s most recent book is “INK”. You might also try youtube. I’m his friend who found your post about Birds and sent it to him. I see he has replied. He is still living in VT, age90 and continues to create.

  • Sadly, William F. Herrick passed away March 13, 2016. He was thrilled with your interest in his work.

    • Laura, Thank you for letting me know. I am saddened by this news. He will be in my prayers.
      I am so glad that I could share his work with other people and the fact that he was thrilled by this blog post makes me smile.

    • Herrick’s book “In the Vicinity 9of Rivers” is another of his wonderful books of poems. /written in 1989 with a great “Prerface” It’s available on Amazon. Nothing on Utube but if you google his name: William F. Herrick, you will see available “The Renaissance Man” which you will love…think it was done in 2014. There is no obit so don’t spend time hunting for it.

      • Melanie, “Bill” Herrick lived with his wife in Arlington, VT. She survives him. He is also survived by 3 grown children from his 1st marriage.

  • How I would love a full account of Bill’s life after college where my husband and I knew him. He was writing poems then too, when he wasn’t writing term papers.

    • Here is my “Ode to Bill”… friend of so many years:

      “A poet’s soul,
      The Renaissance Man”
      Free at last
      to roam at will,
      The Battenkill”

      Bill Herrick fly fished the Battenkill River in VT for many years.