What We Are Reading Today: Flyover Country Poems

Flyover Country Poems
Updated 12 September 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Flyover Country Poems

  • In these poems, midwestern barns and farmhouses are linked to other lands and times as if by psychic tunnels

Author: Austin Smith

A new collection about violence and the rural Midwest from a poet whose first book was hailed as “memorable” (Stephen Burt, Yale Review) and “impressive” (Chicago Tribune), Flyover Country is a powerful collection of poems about violence: The violence we do to the land, to animals, to refugees, to the people of distant countries, and to one another.
Drawing on memories of his childhood on a dairy farm in Illinois, Austin Smith explores the beauty and cruelty of rural life, challenging the idea that the American Midwest is mere “flyover country,” a place that deserves passing over.
At the same time, the collection suggests that America itself has become a flyover country, carrying out drone strikes and surveillance abroad, locked in a state of perpetual war that Americans seem helpless to stop. In these poems, midwestern barns and farmhouses are linked to other lands and times as if by psychic tunnels.
A poem about a barn cat moving her kittens in the night because they have been discovered by a group of boys resonates with a poem about the house in Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis.
A poem beginning with a boy on a farmhouse porch idly swatting flies ends with the image of people fleeing before a drone strike. A poem about a barbwire fence suggests, if only metaphorically, the debate over immigration and borders.


What We Are Reading Today: Bird Love

Updated 05 April 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Bird Love

Author: Wenfei Tong

Bird Love looks at the extraordinary range of mating systems in the avian world, exploring all the stages from courtship and nest-building to protecting eggs and raising chicks.
It delves into the reasons why some species, such as the wattled jacana, rely on males to do all the childcare, while others, such as cuckoos and honeyguides, dump their eggs in the nests of others to raise, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
For some birds, reciprocal promiscuity pays off: Both male and female dunnocks will rear the most chicks by mating with as many partners as possible. For others, long-term monogamy is the only way to ensure their offspring survive.
The book explores the wide variety of ways birds make sure they find a mate in the first place, including how many male birds employ elaborate tactics to show how sexy they are.
Gathering in leks to display to females, they dance, pose, or parade to sell their suitability as a mate. Other birds attract a partner with their building skills.