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Building Inclusive STEM Collections: Books by BIPOC Authors (October 2022): Poetry

By Hilary Dorsch Wong, Katherine A. Hicks, and David Kornreich


In 2019, Black ornithologist J. Drew Lanham (whose memoir is discussed above) published his book of poems, Sparrow Envy. A reorganized and expanded version titled Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts appeared in 2021. Despite the potentially misleading subtitle (this is not a field guide to birds, but a book of social commentary), the new content brings the book far beyond the original edition, with the author’s personal reflections on pressing topics including police brutality against Black people, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly notable is Lanham’s new poem, “Octoroon Warbler,” in which the author “renames” several bird species, writing: “That is my sole responsibility—and pleasure— / to right the wrongs / of racist slave-holding artist ornithologists / of genocidal complicit naturalists / of grave-robbing skull-fondling phrenologists / of the lot of white-supremacist men with the self-serving penchant for naming things after themselves.” While the book consists mostly of poems, this edition includes poetically written prose selections (the ostensible “field notes”) in which Lanham comments more directly on the present intersectional moment.

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