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Feathers or Love on the Wing

In the literary economy, poetry is an art more in supply than demand. Nearly everybody writes poetry, or so it seems. But who reads it?
    Little kids love its melody and meaning, but by high school it’s force-fed. Most of the rest of us take it, often in the form of Hallmark verse, to help us express emotions for which we seem to have no words of our own.
    It takes a clever poet to sneak in under our defenses.
    When a poem catches our attention, we’re often grateful, for a few lines can say more than they weigh.
    Local poet Elisavietta Ritchie has my attention. Her latest, Feathers or Love on the Wing, dangles well-baited treble hooks that might catch yours.
    First, it’s easy to swallow. A small book, it challenges you with just 33 poems, most short enough to take just one of the perfect-bound book’s 48 pages. Each is beautiful, pleasing to the eye as you page through, pausing to enjoy color and form. The words slip easily from elements of design to units of meaning that make stories whose plot and precision keep you reading until there! you’ve read one and think maybe you’ll have another.
    Second, it shows you how skilled your neighbors are. Ritchie — of Broomes Island — has a way with words, which is a good thing as she is indefatigable, with 20 books to her credit. Her particular skill is twisting nature into metaphors for our lives. As well as words, she has contributed found feathers. These and the grainy, richly colored watercolors of Calvert artist Megan Richard have been designed as pages by Prince Frederick artist Suzanne Shelden.
    Third, it’s timely. Love and birds are its subjects. Valentine’s Day lingers beyond February 14 in the rising of the sap in all our hearts. Birds, like swollen daffodil buds and maple blossoms, are the early harbingers of the season. Bird watchers will find a couple dozen closely observed species in these pages, from chickens to cuckoos.

by Elisavietta Ritchie; Illustrated by Megan Richard; designed by Suzanne Shelden
$16 at local galleries and book stores; $17.50 by mail from Shelden Studios; POB 3221, Prince Frederick, MD 20676; include check or money order; return address with phone or email.