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Poster poems: Owls | Billy Mills

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These awesome creatures have inspired much poetry. Now it's your turn let your muse take flight

Driving home late the other week I was startled by a sudden apparition that flew out of the night, passed in front of my car and disappeared again. It was, of course, an owl, that great symbolic bird whose associations with the night, death, wisdom and the numinous make it one of the most written-about of all birds of prey. There was a kind of calm dignity to this chance encounter that led me to reconsider a poem I had recently discovered, Polly Atkin's the bird that makes you afraid [PDF], a title that derives from the Cameroonian name for owl. Atkin's poem is a catalogue of reasons to fear, and yet my encounter resulted in a feeling that was quite different, a kind of calm awe.

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