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'There Are Birds Here' and the AQA Poetry Anthology: Part 1 - Overview

'There Are Birds Here' by Jamaal May is a poem that explore the binary between urban and nature. Dedicated to Detroit, the poem evokes a strong sense of place which accompanies the strong narrative voice, which is forced to repeatedly assert the natural beauty that can be found in an urban location. May's biography on the Poetry Foundation website quotes the poet as saying: 'I'm trying to say something about dichotomy, the uneasy spaces between disparate emotions, and by extension, the uneasy spaces between human connection.' Through the narrative voice, we are able to recognise both sides of the argument that focuses on the rural/urban divide; May repeatedly clarifies the meaning of his words and phrases whilst simultaneously deconstructing their assumed meanings. There is a sense that the poem is fighting against a strong tradition of nature being inextricably linked to the countryside, as popularised tremendously by the Romantic poets.


  1. The repeated attempts (and, in my opinion, success) of the narrator to control the narrative could be compared with the biased narration in 'My Last Duchess'.
  2. Beauty and danger are closely related in the poem; this is also the case in 'Porphyria's Lover', 'Sonnet 29', and 'The Farmer's Bride'.
  3. Power of nature: clear links with 'Tissue', 'Ozymandias', and possibly 'The Prelude' with the awe inspiring scenery which is difficult for the young poet to comprehend. 
  4. Urban/rural binary - 'London' is a strong contender for a contrasting poem here. Both poems also use imagery of war to either defend the natural beauty (TABH) or reinforce that beauty is as absent as nature
  5. 'War Photographer' offers a possible comparison if considering the idea of beauty from destruction, or the concept of finding beauty/art in unexpected places.
  6. 'Checking Out Me History' and 'There Are Birds Here' both challenge the major narratives around their respective topics. 
  7. Finally, 'Remains' is a possible comparative contender as both, to an extent, explore the ways in which memories attach themselves to physical places, as well as touching on the unavoidability of violence/destruction. 

Example Q

Compare how poets present ideas about power in ‘There Are Birds Here’ and in one other poem from ‘Power and conflict’.