An Astonishing Symphony of Voices: Birdsong in the Poetry of Don McKay
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Numerous scholars have observed that Don McKay’s poetry is profoundly musical and particularly attentive to the sounds of birds. However, it has not been examined how musicology can illuminate McKay’s use of birdsong. This thesis addresses McKay’s representation of birdsong by drawing upon musicology, acoustic ecology and ecocriticism. The first chapter examines McKay’s metaphoric and mimetic representations of birdsong. The second chapter explores how McKay uses birdsong to create acoustic spaces within the text. The third chapter probes McKay’s treatment of the physiological processes behind human and avian vocalizations. By defamiliarizing and pushing the boundaries of our language, McKay exposes the epistemological limitations of human language and challenges the species boundary. My hope is that extended attention to the musicality of McKay’s poetry will allow for a fuller appreciation of his treatment of bird vocalizations as songs that extend human language and explore what it means to be human.