In the 101 years since Wallace Stevens' “Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Blackbird” was published, Carolyn Guinzio’s Ozark Crows finally offers us the birds’ point of view. In seventy visually dynamic poems of one page each, Guinzio employs an alphabet augmented by crows that are as much punctuation marks or imaginary letterforms as they are avian characters with speaking parts. Throughout Ozark Crows, poetic language swoops, glides, dives and ascends. The crows both speak this language and scatter it in flight. Attend carefully to the turning of its pages and you will feel the brush of wings.
The family of Ozark crows who give voice to Carolyn Guinzio’s book is concerned, as you might expect, with the elements: wind, frost, field, sky, branch. Yet they also share emotional, existential, and political concerns with us, as in “The murder”:
They call our minds criminal
They call our crowds crimes
We carry the weight of our ancestors
The play of textual and visual on the pages makes us feel both the strangeness of the crows and the commonality we share with them as breathing inhabitants of Earth, and eventually we feel that we know them as well as we do our fellow humans. This is a very special book, a transformative experience.
A Chicago native, Carolyn Guinzio has lived in the Arkansas Ozarks since 2002. She is the author of four previous collections, most recently Spoke & Dark, winner of the To The Lighthouse/A Room Of Her Own Prize (Red Hen, 2012), and Spine (Parlor, 2016). Her writing or visual work has appeared in December, The New Yorker, Agni, Harvard Review, Vassar Review, Boston Review, Bomb, Blackbird, and elsewhere. She co-edited the online project YEW: A Journal of Innovative Writing & Images By Women. Her website is carolynguinzio.tumblr.com