Sunrise of Extinct Birds

Red-winged blackbird sings sweet auspicious song, alive in Music Garden,
not like the reunion night heron,
extinct in the 17th century,

or the canarian oystercatcher extinct since the 1990s,
not like the sulu bleeding heart bird flew over Tawi Tawi Islands,
its bleeding heart gushed, rushed, unable to fly in this world,

not like the mysterious starling flew over Cook Islands.
See the Sulu Sea, longer skies longer, like the black and
white sacred ibis in Tanzania still flies.

We wait at Pearson’s Red Rocket in Terminal 1,
drinks, September Vogue, all flights oversold,
our future unknown like a cockatrice.

Would New York memories be worth it
or better we never made it?
The New Zealand laughing owl hoots its death-howl at us now.

Woo Hoo. Hoo Hoo. Ha Ha.

Questions and Answers

Do you use resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. books, films, art, websites, etc.)?

“Letters to a Young Poet” by the German master modern art poet Rainer Maria Rilke,  is a collection of letters Rilke wrote to a young aspiring poet who wanted Rilke’s advice whether he was good enough to pursue a poetry career. Rilke advised him he would know a poem is good when it is written out of necessity.  He also advised against writing love poems as they are the hardest to write, and require great maturity and strength to produce something of your own. I highly recommend this book and all of Rilke’s poetry to a young writer. The Poetry Foundation website is a good resource for poets, poems, techniques, glossaries, and articles. Website address:

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Take poetry classes, workshop with other students, read poetry you enjoy, write, and edit, edit, edit.

How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

I wrote this poem during an early August sunrise watching birds on lake Ontario from my balcony.  I researched and used extinct birds, except for the sacred ibis, as a simile for an extinct relationship. A cockatrice is a mythological beast: half bird, half snake, a fairly unknown creature and word. I liked the sound of the word cockatrice and used it; it ties in with the theme of extinct birds, except that a cockatrice is mythological. I shortened a longer draft by selecting the best lines, and rewrote it in different styles: couplets, triplets, different sentence lengths and punctuation, and changed the number and order of verses. Then, I removed all line breaks to form a prose paragraph, started over, and finished with triplets, and a one line ending. Rewrite, reorder, delete, edit, edit, edit.

This poem “Sunrise of Extinct Birds” originally appeared in Agency & Affect. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 223 (Winter 2014): 31.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.