Friday, February 2, 2018

The Poetry of Hawks and Falcons

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Donna at Mainely Write for Roundup.

I've spent part of this week preparing for mine and Charles Waters' week-long visit to schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan, thanks to amazing poet/educator/"cool teacher" Kim Doele. More on this later!

I've also been reading, of course, and the book I want to share today is THE HAWK OF THE CASTLE: A Story of Medieval Falconry by Danna Smith, illus. By Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick). It's a combination of verse and nonfiction text boxes and gorgeous art to educate about raptors and also to celebrate a father-daughter relationship. (As one who shared a hobby/obsession with my father, I could so relate!)

Nearly every verse begins "This is..." and ends with "castle." Kind of like the House That Jack Built, except not cumulative.

Here's an early example:

"This is our hawk: a sight to behold,
a master of flight, graceful and bold.
My father trains this bird of prey
who lives with us at the castle."

Right away I learned the difference between hawks and falcons:

"Hawks have a rounded tail and short or broad wings, which allow them to fly more slowly and glide more often than falcons. Falcons, on the other hand, are built for speed, with a streamlined body, long tail, and long, pointed wings."

I did not know that! Readers also learn about equipment like glove and hood, bells attached to the bird's legs, and how to signal a hawk to flight. It's fascinating. And reminds me of FALCON WILD by Terry Lynn Johnson, about a current day falconer who must survive after a car wreck leaves her lost. (I love all of Terry's books!)

This led me to find other birds-of-prey poems:

Evening Hawk by Robert Penn Warren (gorgeous language, including "scythes" as a verb!)

And here is a gorgeous choral piece called "The Falcon."

Readers, if you know of other hawk/falcon poems, please leave them in comments, and I will add them to the post. Thank you! Wishing everyone a beautiful beginning of this, our shortest month. xo


  1. Thanks for sharing about Hawk of the Castle. I'm fascinated by hawks and falcons (we see both here in our woods). The choral piece was soothing and lovely. Have fun with Charles in Michigan next week!

  2. I'm a big fan of birds in general, and birds of prey especially, and then on to owls.... but I am intrigued by your review of this book and will look for it to share with grandkids. Here is a Mary Oliver poem called Hawk:

  3. How about -

  4. Oh, thank you! I know just the perfect young person to make sure gets this book. What a great idea for a book....and a neat rhyme scheme. Lovely post.

  5. Can't wait to hear more about your trip to Michigan! I met Kim at NCTE, and you're right; she is amazing! Thank you for sharing The Hawk in the Castle. It sounds fascinating. We have red-tailed hawks who prowl the fields around our house. I love spotting them perched in trees, so regal and calm.

  6. And then there are eagles... I wonder how they differ, again...? We have sea eagles, that terrorise the birds around our dam, plucking them from the skies with strikes like a bolt from the blue. I cannot like it...

    Though I do love non-fiction worked into poetry.

  7. Oh, wow, Irene - this is perfect for me just now, and I'll circle back - :0) - as I'm thinking of working in a side trip to a falconry/castle site near Edinburgh when we make our family trip this summer. Shhh.... don't tell my kids. ;0) These titles look wonderful - I've been fascinated by birds of prey forever.

  8. I have The Hawk In The Castle on my ever-growing list, and did not realize it had poetry, too. We have news about falcons somewhat often because the Air Force Academy's mascot is the falcon & they have a special permit to raise & train them, show them off at events. One falcon reference I know in a poem is Yeats 'Second Coming' because it also has the line "Things Fall Apart" from which Achebe used as the title of his book. Ha! You've brought many memories from this post, Irene! These birds are fascinating. I guess they are to many others, too!

  9. How fascinating. A friend of mine has a license to rehabilitate eagles and falcons and hawks and has cared for several. THey are such interesting birds. I can't think of any poems about birds of prey, but your post brought to mind one of my favorite books (which has a bird of prey) -- My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

  10. That's a beautiful and deep poem "Evening Hawk," so many layers there to take in, so much we humans could learn if we studied the hawk. Thanks also for sharing "The Hawk of the Castle," I'll have to look for it. Happy book travels in Michigan Irene to you both!

  11. I've always been tempted to treat my husband to a falconry course--and of course tag along! The Hawk of the Castle sound fabulous and I love the sample poem you shared. Odd coincidence- my response to Laura Shovan's project on Friday was structured like "The House that Jack Built!" The Warren poem is lush and delicious and worthy of many rereads. Thank you for introducing it to me. I'm going to print it out and put it in my notebook. Have fun on your journey!

  12. I'm fascinated by these magnificent creatures, too. I have a collection of poems by Ted Hughes somewhere, and I know there are hawk poems in there, Irene. I'll circle back if I find them

  13. This post is timely for me, Irene, since we just attended the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire yesterday and learned about falconry there, too. Such majestic, handsome birds. Loved the chorale piece you shared as well.


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