Analysis of Nissim Ezekiel’s "Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher"

Nissim Ezekiel’s poems are as a rule lucid and are splendidly evocative and satisfyingly sensuous. His poetry reveals more careful craftsmanship, a more conscious intellectuality. His sensuous sketches as well as his serious efforts on behalf of the experience have won Ezekiel numerous appeals for both his young adult and adult writing. Read More Poetry In quality and integrity they are conversational directness and ease without losing himself in discursiveness.

Poet, lover, Birdwatcher (included in the volume The Exact Name) is such a poem where beauty and bareness of statement go together where it weaves the themes of birdwatching, wooing and writing poetry together, and shows their resemblance: the need for patient, quiet waiting until the rare bird is revealed, the woman feels loved and the right word is found for the poem. Read More Poetry With a remarkable blend of seriousness and good humor, Ezekiel here records his observations of human behavior and his account of daily life in the wide aspect of life. The poem is fast-paced and filled with adventures and amusing discoveries in two stanzas.

From his first accidental introduction to a poet to his experiments concerning versification, which result in the maze of fancy game, Ezekiel provides an informative, entertaining narrative. Nissim Ezekiel’s Poet, lover, Birdwatcher is not just about poet, lover and a birdwatcher. Equally important is its treatment of the judgmental legacy that sends the person to an Eldorado. Read More Poetry A wish is ill-prepared to survive in the wild. The ignorance, coupled with preconceived notions about the nature of creativity, hinders these investigations. Nissim Ezekiel’s lessons in survival and his revolutionary discoveries about human behavior and thought process make this an enlightening and pleasing poem.

  In fact, the title of the poem from Shakespeare’s ‘the lunatic, the lover and the poet’ in his A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But in Ezekiel’s case the craze is replaced by patience. The message of the poem is clear: “The best poets wait for words”. But this waiting is by no means, simple. The poet cannot while away his time, but like the careful birdwatcher, has to remain ever alert. There is the eternal vigil that is the price for the gift of poetry. Read More Poetry To stay poised in that tension is what Ezekiel recommends to poets. The whole meaning is enhanced and elaborated through the elaborate and extended comparison with bird watching. The first stanza begins with making love which is like the experience of hunting. Patience rears up desires to be emotive that would yield results:
“ To force the pace and never to be still
Is not the way of those who study birds
Or women. The best poets wait for words.”

A best lover waits for maturing a lovable situation like appropriate words used by the poet. Art of seducing involve patience. The lover’s hunt i. e.  the search for   or the desire  for beloved is a calculated exercise of will akin to love that relax on a hill, fluttering of timid wing like that of a bird;  waiting is thus a search for moral of love, loving and to be loved. The poet too finds his moral proved in this way by introspection, waiting and watching. Read More Poetry This is like the yogic   patience. In fact patience is the center of all social situations, the energy-giver who instigates and directs action. This wild imagination makes us a bold explorer of new possibility, and our sheer joy in existence contributes to his natural leadership. He is most at home in the world of sport—triumphing in traditional games with an almost casual competence, serving as the spirit of inspiration in games he creates to enchant his friends. Because he is so good at handling conventional social arrangements, he loves a challenge and often dares himself to go beyond the limits set by authorities. He is both a rebel and a faithful supporter:
 “The hunt is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing;
Until the one who knows that she is loved
No longer waits but risks surrendering -”

We the human always search for unique, rare and uncanny. We the lovers, the birdwatchers and the poets thus roam about along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow In silence near the source, or by a shore Remote and thorny like the heart's dark floor to meet a perfect match, To watch the rarer birds or perfect word of articulation. Read More Poetry At these conditions, the mythical women of creativity, Eldorado or zenith of supreme slowly turn around, bright in luster yet unfathomable with darkness at the core:
“The slow movement seems, somehow, to say much more.
To watch the rarer birds, you have to go
Along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow
In silence near the source, or by a shore
Remote and thorny like the heart's dark floor.”

Ezekiel , however, finds no remedial for the poets who are forever romantic and philanderer , forever lost in crooked, restless flight, even though his poems brings back hearing to The deaf or the blind recover sight.

In the very title word, an implied metaphor is drawn between the three diversified elements – poet, lover, bird watcher. But shockingly the three elements are interwoven by their nature of patience. The bare statement of the poem is that a poet, a lover and a birdwatcher must be cool and composed and decided words, blessed beloved and the rarest birds respectively. This change   structures the narrative and gives it a sense of progression, but the central core around which it revolves is the character of human being, our wishes and best achievement. Read More Poetry In creating this parallel, Nissim builds a character of us upon an idea of excellence that a young man might aspire to, and he has succeeded in making this parallel a plausible person where he might easily have remained a wooden icon or symbol.

The three element courtship, bird watching and poetry are thus related; in each case, the attitude that is recommended is of passive alertness, not of anxiety, hurry, aggression, or hyperactivity. The more one is agitated, the less one gains. The one who is loved is not chased like a quarry, but daring. Ultimately, the rewards of such worshipful patience are great: what is gained is not just” flesh and bone but myths of light/ with darkness at the core”:
 “And there the women slowly turn around,
Not only flesh and bone but myths of light
With darkness at the core, and sense is found
But poets lost in crooked, restless flight,
The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight.”

  Here we see that for Nissim, love and poetry are means to a special knowledge, wisdom transcendence even. Read More Poetry There is a major miracle that the two bring about: “The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight”. Poetry, then, like love, is ultimately a different way of perceiving reality of seeing, hearing and experiencing differently.

A typical feminist reading of the poem misinterprets the poem as the inherent patriarchal authority that lives within the poem and which is generally a reflection of the poet’s attitude also. They object women to be birds of prey or loving to hunting. Read More Poetry The poem, in fact, is no male centric; it is about art of living and art of writing. Nissim has a modernist bent of mind and his Poet, lover, Birdwatcher is a modern poem. It is not a simple or unitary phenomenon, but a rather complex set of attitudes and idioms. Here in this poem is a precise use of language, especially of well crafted images, and their largely ironic stance.

 Ref: Wikipedia; IGNOU Study Guide


  1. Can you please give me some notes on Nissim Ezekiel's "Enterprise"?

  2. can you please give the sound devices used in the poet lover birdwatcher

  3. I absolutely loved what you wrote. It's such an amazing analysis.

  4. Dear Ard,
    Wishes. I like this poem very much. I always wonder how nicely the poet wrote this poem.Great poet!!!!

    1. Well said Sathya... a great poem: salute to the poet.


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