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‘Dawn Songs’ celebrates birds in poetry and essays

Dawn Songs
This Yellow Warbler painting is featured on the cover of ‘Dawn Songs.’ Art by Mark Collins

Poetry and nature essays can be powerful ways for people to connect with the natural world. A new anthology released in January, titled Dawn Songs: A Birdwatcher’s Field Guide to the Poetics of Migration and edited by Jamie K. Reaser and J. Drew Lanham, features lyrical reflections on our relationships with birds. The book’s release coincides with the 30th anniversary of International (World) Migratory Bird Day, which was co-founded in 1993 by Reaser. Proceeds from the book will go toward American Bird Conservancy’s Conservation and Justice Fellowship Program.

Dawn Songs is more than a book,” Reaser said. “It is an invocation — a calling together of birds and birdwatchers across diverse landscapes and indefinite identities. It is a celebration of what unites us at the edges of nature and human nature. It is, in part, Emily Dickenson’s ‘Hope [being] the thing with feathers.’”

The anthology contains works from 60 writers, some of whom are well-established in their field, and others who “have had fewer opportunities to voice their stories and sentiments,” Reaser said. “One of our intentions in bringing Dawn Songs together was to amplify such voices, to invite the lesser-known authors onto a perch from which they could be better heard.”

It is divided into four sections: “To Know,” “To Wonder,” “To Lament,” and “To Celebrate.” Each explores the intersection between nature and human nature through a different lens.

Book echoes the ‘magic of a dawn chorus’

The cover of Dawn Songs alongside photos of Jamie K. Reaser and J. Drew Lanham.

In “To Know,” poets write about their personal relationships with birds, with some poems centering the feeling of greeting freshly returned migrants and others simply expressing joy at watching swallows fly or herons hunt. “To Wonder,” meanwhile, contains works expressing questions that birds inspire in the writers, and “To Lament” allows space to mourn species declines and the deaths of individual birds alike. The anthology ends on an uplifting note with “To Celebrate,” which contains joyous odes to the gifts birds give us.


“This book brings together a diversity of uplifted human voices — echoing the magic of a dawn chorus,” said Michael J. Parr, president of ABC. “It’s an artful celebration in service of birds, of nature, of human nature.”

Dawn Songs will directly contribute to empowering the next generation of bird conservationists thanks to Reaser and Lanham’s generous decision to donate proceeds to ABC’s recently launched Fellowship Program. Through scientific research, community engagement, and storytelling, ABC’s Fellows explore the interconnectedness of bird conservation and environmental justice. Applications are actively sought from a diversity of individuals, including people historically without voice in environmental justice and conservation dialogues.

“We are honored that Drew Lanham and Jamie Reaser have chosen to support our Conservation and Justice Fellowship program through the proceeds from Dawn Songs,” said Naamal De Silva, chief diversity officer at ABC. “Launched in 2022, our program is new, so their faith in its potential means a great deal. Their choice will bring more attention to the program and to current fellows.”

Dawn Songs is available for purchase now on Amazon, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. And you can learn more and engage with others enjoying the poems on the book’s Facebook page and YouTube channel


Ornithologist J. Drew Lanham wins 2020 E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Award

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American Bird Conservancy

American Bird Conservancy

American Bird Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. It contributes the “Eye on Conservation” column in each issue of BirdWatching.

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