Poems about pets and (human) predators

Animal lover Amanda Bell’s debut poetry collection, First the Feathers, examines the range of relationships between humans and animals

Amanda Bell: that the sentience of animals is currently a matter of debate makes it timely to reflect on our complex and contradictory relationships with the non-humans with whom we share the planet

Amanda Bell: that the sentience of animals is currently a matter of debate makes it timely to reflect on our complex and contradictory relationships with the non-humans with whom we share the planet

We inadvertently reveal ourselves in our writing, possibly more so in the case of poetry than any other genre. It can be both alarming and enlightening to see preoccupations leap out from between the pages of a book when perhaps we thought we were being oblique in individual poems. As both a lifelong animal lover and a researcher with an ecocritical perspective, it is perhaps not surprising that the human/animal relationship is a pronounced strand in my debut collection First the Feathers (Doire Press). The very fact that the sentience of animals is currently a matter of debate makes it timely to reflect on our complex and contradictory relationships with the non-humans with whom we share the planet. It is in this context that I examine the portrayal of the human/animal relationship in the collection.

Many would argue that the primary relationship between human and animal is a culinary one. The cover image of arrowheads, described in my poem Points (which was shortlisted for the Irish Poem of the Year 2017), attests to millennia of humans hunting animals for food. Its companion piece, the title poem First the Feathers (winner of the Allingham Prize 2015), is a meditation on the ethics of eating a game bird. The argument develops by touch, as the act of prepping a woodcock for the table brings up a series of haptic associations in an attempt to understand the true significance of the act. The imagery proceeds from an evocation of the still-lives of the Dutch masters, to the desecration of breaking the spine of a book, to the final image, suggestive of infanticide.

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