April 19, 2023
Please join us and our guest, Alan Powers, for a show on Conversations with Birds: The Metaphysics of Bird and Human Communication. For decades Alan has studied bird vocalizations, developing the remarkable ability to imitate birds’ songs and get them to respond and even change tunes. Through his years of study, he has discovered that birds can teach us important lessons about the world and about ourselves. As Alan explains, by communing cross-species we reach out to the timeless interconnected web of all life past and present—what Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno called in Latin the Uni-versus, the “Whole turned into One.”
Sharing his journey to learn birdtalk and his profound observations about the poetic, spiritual, and healing influences of birdsong, Powers explores the ancient language of birds and the depth of meaning birds convey. He explains how bird speech sounds like song to us, but birdtalk is urgent and nuanced, whether about predators or the weather. He details how he began learning birdtalk, listening to one bird each summer, learning their many vocalizations and variations. Discussing specific techniques, he shares insights into the birdtalk of many species, including the complex and intelligent speech of Crows, the emotional depths of Loons, the mimicry of Blue Jays, and the beautiful song of the Wood Thrush.
Alan earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Minnesota in 1976, with post-doctoral studies at Princeton, Brown, Harvard, Cornell, the Folger Library, Breadloaf, Villa Vergilliana (Italy), and the American Academy, Rome. He is professor emeritus of English at Bristol Community College, where he was chairman of the English department from 1988 to 1992. The author of several books, including The Worlds of Giordano Bruno, Alan lives in Westport, Massachusetts. Learn more at www.habitableworlds.com.