<back The Skulls Of Birds: 1981  

The Skulls Of Birds: The Great Geographies

Two glass fronted wooden boxes, with wooden cubes. Paint and bleached map.
32cms x 64cms x 7cms.

'The skulls of birds; the great geographies', are two 'partly remembered' lines from a Ted Hughes poem of 1962; the originals being: 'skull of a bird, whose great geographies'.

I discovered it in a Penguin anthology of poetry called 'Worlds', published in 1974; a book containing work by severn contemporary writers; including Seamus Heaney and Adrian Mitchell as well as Ted Hughes.

The words struck me as a wonderfully elegant encapsulation of a very elusive idea; the magical way that something as fragile as a bird can navigate vast landscapes and oceans during migration.

The dislocated 'map', is of the Humber Estuary. 'Dislocated', as a reference to the dual identity of skulls; at one and the same time, a place for thought and inteligence; but also, in death, a vacated shell of memory.

With the slightly childlike wooden cubes that spell out the words, an echo of the innocence and playfulness I always associate with birds. A serious misinterpretation of nature's quite ruthless regime I know, but also a foil to the darker side of 'skull'.