Curlew (Draw a Bird Day)

the small is mirrored
in the large, and what appears,
surprises—the same,

but filtered by air,
particles of refracted
light, pixelated

into fragments, in
to a gridlike layer of
illusion—the eyes

are fooled at first, but
the voice, immediately

permeates, revealing the
inside of the Other Side

I recently finished Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece”, a book in which the curlew has a large role. “It’s flesh, everyone knows, is pure and clean because this bird is known to eat nothing but air and is also known to be a bird that comes as a gift from God to befriend the pilgrims and it exists, the story goes, to weld the heaven to the earth.”

“The stories say it is a bird that likes books and even brings them in its beak to saints if the saints have dropped their holy books in water and they need retrieving or if the saints are short of something to say to people then this bird will be the messenger that brings them books full of things God would like them to say.”

The curlew is strongly associated with the Seven Whistlers, birdlike night creatures whose eerie call is said to bring on death and disaster. But it is also seen in a more positive light as an intimate part of its landscape–moors, bogs, and river valleys, the windswept winter coastline.

Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing curlews,
Hearing the horizons endure.

–Ted Hughes

Five of the eight species of curlews are endangered, with two–the Eskimo Curlew, and the Slender-Billed Curlew–most likely already extinct. A migratory bird, they are found throughout the world. Their vocalizations are filled with complex harmonics and pitch variations.

Through throats where many rivers meet, the curlews cry,
Under the conceiving moon, on the high chalk hill

–Dylan Thomas

Sometimes my research on the bird I choose to draw yields little information, but the curlew is so well-represented in poetry, music, nature writing, and folklore, that I could not begin to touch on even a small piece of it in one post.

If you want to find out more, here are a few good places to start:

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About memadtwo

For more madness, follow me on Instagram @h_zimel methodtwomadness is a blog of two friends, Nina and Kerfe kblog is Kerfe's solo branch on the tree

45 responses to “Curlew (Draw a Bird Day)”

  1. VJ says :

    These are wonderful! Delightful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura Bloomsbury says :

    made for art and poetry – your drawings bring them to life, not least the colour you have given. And their cry:
    “revealing the
    inside of the Other Side” Brilliant!
    Sadly the UK species Numenius arquata are red listed

    Liked by 1 person

    • memadtwo says :

      Thanks Laura. You are right, made for art and poetry. So many poets weave them into their words as an intimate part of their landscapes–it would be tragic to lose that link. I hope the organizations and individuals working to save them are successful.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. merrildsmith says :

    A magical post, Kerfe.
    “revealing the
    inside of the Other Side”

    I just saw Laura picked out the same lines. I didn’t know much about curlews. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Liz Gauffreau says :

    I enjoyed every moment of this post. Just delightful! I know nothing about curlews.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SelmaMartin says :

    How lovely. Words and artwork. Thanks so much, K. Incredibly lovely. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Colleen M. Chesebro says :

    What a beautiful bird, Kerfe. I even like the sound of the name, Curlew. Your drawings are superb!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ingrid says :

    I love your bird paintings, Kerfe: love the movement in these ones!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. neil reid says :

    Double duty of this feathered post. Of itself, well received. But then, say, I know that bird from the beaches west of my former California home. I checked and yes, the long-billed curlew is resident in Monterey Bay. Sparse population, but present. Other than gulls & pelicans those are the ones I most remember. Thanks. Well done post Kerfe.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Aletha Kuschan says :

    Your drawings have such a look of enjoyment in them. Looks like a subject that you love.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. neil reid says :

    Oh and, what Laura said, that line. I’d also add – “books full of things God would like them to say.” (active over passive isn’t this’)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lesleyscoble says :

    Beautiful post on a special bird ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  12. robertawrites235681907 says :

    Hi Kerfe, your pictures are excellent, detailed and lovely. I enjoyed your poem and the information about the curlew.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. philgomm says :

    Love curlews!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. D. Avery @shiftnshake says :

    Your poem is a wonderful companion to Ali Smith’s “Companion Piece”. I appreciate all the information you have provided here!


  15. JosieHolford says :

    Curlews have such a distinct call and evocative to me of times spent in lonely moorland places.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. murisopsis says :

    I love the drawings and especially the one with the reflection in the water – it goes so well with the poem!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. msjadeli says :

    Lovely art and poetry and how exciting to be illustrating a book. Sorry to hear of the humble curlew being endangered. The music video is haunting in light of it. I listened to NPR the other day in the car where a journalist was talking about climate change doom being dwarfed by the attack on biodiversity of species. I still think of Rachel Carson’s “silent spring” a world where birds do not sing 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  18. judeitakali says :

    A wonderful informative piece with a sprinkle of awareness. Enjoyed the poetry and art as well, and the local beliefs.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Bela Johnson says :

    So cool! Curlews are wonderful birds, though I admit ignorance of them to the degree that you’ve featured them here. Thanks for broadening my education! 💞

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Jill Kuhn says :

    Your drawings are lovely as always, Kerfe! I really enjoyed the video…such beautiful photos! I didn’t know much about this bird, thank you for the info.

    Liked by 1 person

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