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Inspiring Bird Art Through Haiku

2014 December 10
by Constanza Arévalo

Inspiration for creating art can be found just about anywhere. Sometimes all we need to become inspired is to take just a minute to thoughtfully observe our surroundings, absorbing the beauty that both nature and city life hold. Recently, we came across the bird-inspired haiku of the late Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996). Though a native of New York City, Sydell found inspiration in the small nature-filled moments of her daily life, which resulted in beautiful yet simple haiku that often possess a touch of her urban environs as well. In addition to writing poetry, Sydell wrote short stories and even a novel. She was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, founded in 1968 in New York City, and taught both public school and English as a second language.

Sydell’s sweet haiku were brought to our attention by her daughter, Amy Losak, who uses her mother’s haiku to help inspire others to create their own art. Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry. In English it is usually characterized by a total of seventeen syllables contained within three lines of five, seven, and five syllables respectively- but it’s also fine to deviate from this format. It’s easy but can also be challenging! Recently Sydell’s bird haiku have been used in several visual art and music workshops for second graders, conducted at an elementary school in the Bronx, New York. Her partner in the development of these programs is Arts for All.

If you’re looking for a fun project to combine with the patient and attentive joy of bird watching, consider writing your own haiku- or any kind of poetry! All you need for this activity is a sheet of paper, a pen or pencil, and a bit of inspiration, such as Sydell’s haiku, for your own imagination to take literary flight! However, if you’re looking for a more hands-on project, we invite you to use Sydell’s haiku as a kind of guide to make colorful art. Sydell’s bird haiku, though straightforward in style, are so vivid that an image is sure to pop into your mind as you read them, making this a creative and  enjoyable project. Art projects which use these bird haiku could include painting, drawing, making a collage- or any other form of art you like.

Below is a sampling of Sydell’s bird haiku:


Even the starling

European Starling by Len Endy

European Starling by Len Endy

pauses before he jumps off

the sidewalk curb.


February: Jones Beach

a lone seagull finds

the beach all his own.



In a quiet cove

ducks abandon their formation

swimming after bread.



Crossing the wide sky

a blue jay is held briefly

Blue Jay by Michael Hogan

Blue Jay by Michael Hogan

in the window square.


Eleven wild swans

cut their flight in mid-ocean

to rest on a rock.


Hurrying to catch

the peacock’s feathers  spreading

in the camera.


Are you inspired yet? What are you waiting for? Go, be creative and discover your artistic side or share it with others!

2 Responses leave one →
  1. February 25, 2015

    I really enjoyed reading the haiku poetry of Sydell Rosenberg. This inspired me to write three of my own. I live in South Texas and enjoy the blue jays, cardinals, yellow-fronted woodpeckers and white-winged doves in my city backyard. These are true scenes from my birdwatching this winter.

    Blue and red heads noisily quibble
    Over a forgotten pecan stashed in the bush.
    Mine or yours?

    Hungry woodpecker
    Incessantly bangs on my bedroom wall
    Begging for breakfast.

    Darling dove without cooing whispers
    Silently sits on her leafless perch
    And waits for spring.

    Enjoy! And thanks for inspiring me.

    Martha Zapata
    San Antonio, Texas

    • Constanza Arévalo permalink*
      February 27, 2015

      These are beautifully written, Martha!
      I’m very glad you enjoyed reading the blog and that you’ve taken the time to do some bird watching. Don’t forget to share your poetry with others and to inspire them to do some bird watching/poetry-writing themselves!

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