Sunday, June 2, 2024

What is Crow? wins Pushcart Prize

"What is Crow (Polyphony)" 

has been awarded a

Pushcart Prize

and will be published in

the Pushcart Prize XILX (2025) anthology. 


This poem was previously published


Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment


You can find it here.


(Gratitude and thanks to

Managing Editors

Zoe Stonetree, Geneva Toland,

and Senior Editor Debra Marquart,

for nominating the poem!)


This was the last poem written for the manuscript, The Next World (which will be published by Shanti Arts next year).

I thought the manuscript was complete, when I woke one April morning (2023) to find the ground and trees covered with about an inch of slushy, dripping snow. The grass and new flowers were poking up out of the ice, reflecting the morning sun, and there was a murder of crows (a local gang), moving back and forth from the grass of the rehabilitation center across the street to the oaks and maples that line the parking lot of the apartment complex where I live. The noise was cacophonous, ear-splitting, gorgeous. I went out walking and wrote down what I saw, heard, felt.


Ever since I started writing poetry, I’ve been trying to find a way to present my experience of the interrelationships between all things (everything is connected). My experience, in the wild, in the city (sometimes in the burbs), has been that the borders between things are tenuous, constantly changing; that the borders between my body and the world, between all bodies and the world, are constantly in flux.


Daniel Popper Sculpture

Part of the experience of interrelationship or interconnectedness is the deep knowledge, in the cells, of the interdependence of everything. Nothing exists alone. And if that is true, then what does that say about the human “self,” our “identity”?  Where do we end and a stone, a leaf, a murder of crows, begin?

Daniel Popper Sculpture

Experience is the key word here. It’s important to point out that the experience of “everything is connected” is very different from the concept or idea that everything is connected, in a continuum of interrelations. When it’s a concept or idea it becomes a cliché, a statement on a Hallmark card: “Everything is connected…Happy Earth Day!”


Unfortunately, despite the emergence of systems theory (Systems Theory, as a concept, emerged from the recognition that complex phenomena could not be fully understood by analyzing their individual components in isolation) in the past forty years, the culture still encourages a perception of the world as one person = one body,

  as if we are moving around as a separate body, in a world of other separate bodies, much like balls passing by or clacking against each other on a pool table. This simply isn’t my experience.


So, when the crows were moving back and forth on that snowy morning, and I went out walking among them, I found a new way to speak about that experience of being a small part moving within a huge and moving system – by way of simple questions (or are they that simple, really?). It’s just one way. I will keep trying to get this experience down. The experience is continually changing, so poem possibilities will keep changing, too. 


Candice Bees Sculpture


Here's the beginning of the poem:


What is Crow (Polyphony)


Crows fill the bare maples, between baroque trills and
iron-crust-against-plaster croaks, they dip their heads,
swipe beaks, black to cold branch: What is wood? Wood
was one of the solutions soil came up with when it was
asked to invent the sky. And what is sky? The gravity
source that pulled black wings out of crow bodies that
now whirl and scatter and land on the rehab lawn across

the street…


You can find the rest of the poem here.



Books/Sites of interest, related to "Interconnectedness"

“What is the pattern,” Gregory Bateson would ask “that connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose, and all four of them to me? And me to you?”

Gregory Bateson

Steps to an Ecology of Mind

Mind & Nature: A Necessary Unity

Biography of Bateson by Anthony Chaney (Excellent Intro to history of Systems Theory): 

Runaway: Gregory Bateson, The Double Blind & The Rise of Ecological Consciousness 

David Abram

Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology  

Spell of the Sensuous: Perception & Language in a More than Human World   


An Ecology Of Mind- A Daughter's portrait of Gregory Bateson Directed by Nora Bateson


Daniel Popper:

Candice Bees:



Daniel Popper