Birding in Britain is as integral to the cultural mainstream as haiku is in its native Japan. The fact that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has over one million members, in a country with a population of around sixty million, is a remarkable and well-documented statistic. To a similar number of Japanese, and to an increasing number of westerners, writing haiku is not a hobby: it is an essential element of everyday life.
The ever-evolving relationship between the British people, birds and landscape is as intricate as it is long, and our expression of the natural and cultural significance of our birdlife has taken many forms. Now, in this fascinating book, the combination of birds and haiku brings fresh perceptions to both subject matter and medium, underlining the significance of Wing Beats as an experiential record of avifauna in Britain, and as a poetic and literary development.
These contemporary poems are exquisitely crafted: steeped in the aesthetics of the haiku tradition, and grounded through keen observation of, and empathy with, nature. Pared down to the exact fused curve of outer and inner experience, they capture the essence of the birds, but are also imbued with a sense of place, and compelled by a belief that the human spirit is inextricably connected to the physicality of the natural world.
This, then, is a field guide to experience, rather than to identification, though painstaking scientific accuracy and photographic watercolour illustrations ensure it may be used effectively alongside traditional bird guides.
Whether considered as a bird book, as a collection of poetry, or as writing that emphasizes the interconnectedness between nature and humans, Wing Beats is quite simply unique.