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Tuesday, November 01, 2005 

Base Poetics

Every year the Vaux’s Swifts migrate through northwest Portland and hold a September occupation of the massive chimney at the Chapman Elementary School. Gathering in the thousands, these petite birds speck the sky during the day only to collectively dive into the chimney at sunset, like a tornado returning to a genie’s lamp. Normally nesting in the hollow tree trunks and cavities found in old-growth forests, the destruction of the natural world has forced these birds to take direct action and use their creative resourcefulness to find new habitats in unlikely locations. While many in the popular press have praised the birds for their various flight acrobatics, it is not their entertainment value that I find inspiring, but their intuitive use of analogy. This application of poetic thinking exists outside the domain of the printed page. It is a lived experience, a raw source of knowledge as customary to them as looking or sleeping. Surrogating chimneys and smokestacks for the missing old-growth forests, the swifts demonstrate that the wilderness will reassert itself even under the ruinous conditions of consumer capitalism.

Brandon Freels

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