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Archive Book Review: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

Dr Bird Advice for Sad Poets


Archive Book Review: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

To be honest, the title drew me in

Book Review Date: March 30th, 2013

Written by: Evan Roskos

Cover Copy

This is James Whitman’s Song of Himself! He hugs trees and tries to save animals. He talks to an imaginary pigeon therapist named Dr. Bird. He often hates himself, but loves to recite Walt Whitman because it can be recited with exclamation points! And it annoys his father, the Brute, who dislikes all things that seem fun. And even though his parents believe life is better since they kicked his sister, Jorie, out of the house, James feels her absence deeply. How can James continue to wake up with a celebratory YAWP, like his namesake poet-hero?

James tries to connect the dots around his sister’s mysterious expulsion, but his mission falters as he discovers that some of her secrets are not that different from his own. Secrets not even Dr. Bird can help with. Might it take something radical to intervene — like helping his best friend or talking to a beautiful girl — for James to help his sister and truly celebrate himself?

Dr Bird Advice for Sad Poets


I’ll be honest. The title drew me in. The cover next. Then hearing about an imaginary bird therapist? I was in. Seriously. It doesn’t take much for me when there are birds involved. But I can’t help it. I have a soft spot for all things feathery. {I own four birds, yaknow}. Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. I understand the sadness and the questioning yourself and your existence and then the happiness and questioning how you could ever have been sad and then the eventual return to sadness and the circular nature of this process. I totally get it. So the humor that stems from that makes sense to me. And it really is a funny book, despite things being pretty bad for the characters. There’s a great balance of happy and sad, heavy and light. The character arc is lovely. Subtle and wonderful. Same with the plot; figuring out what happened with Jorie. It’s really well done. Like layers of tracing paper are slowly removed from as stack until at the end you can finally see the details and colors of the picture underneath. Lovely.

Dr Bird Advice for Sad Poets

First Line

I yawp most mornings to irritate my father, the Brute.

Favorite Lines 

  • For a year, I’ve been seeing an imaginary therapist. Her name is Dr. Bird. She is a large pigeon, human-size. She wears no clothes. Because she’s a bird.
  • Pigeons strike me as good listeners — they discern the voices of mates over the cacophony of the natural world. They move the right way too. A pigeon’s head-tilts suggest the kinds of things that I imagine therapists say: “Really?” or “How did that feel?” or “Tell me more.” Plus: one intense, glassy black eye staring at me, the neck-bob of agreement, the puffing of feathers when I’m being evasive.
  • Making a distinction between happiness and calmness is the closest I can come to admitting that I never feel what I assume is happiness.
  • The brutal tease of anxiety burns my stomach.
  • “I always need cheering up,” I say as cheerfully as I can.
  • I try not to encourage many details about my mother’s childhood since it gives her opportunities to tell me how grateful I should be.
  • I might have to use finesse. But I don’t have finesse. I have panic attacks and my family’s genetic tendency to talk too fast when upset.
  • …wouldn’t he have to understand how she got to the breaking point? How all the little things became big things and all the big things became like a wildfire menacing everything flammable?
  • When my alarm goes off in the morning, I have no energy to celebrate myself or hug trees or even look any birds in the eye.
  • Whitman passed off lists of things as poetry. It makes for as tedious read sometimes, but I think I know why he did it: it totally shuts down the mind. Thus, I spend all morning cataloging things in classrooms and hallways. My anxieties take a back seat to unfettered words — no sentences, no strings of repetitive phrases. No worries about what I said and how I said it. Just things.
  • Movement tricks me into feeling happy.
  • She was a person in pain with no outlets.
  • Yelling, though, seems to negate the meaning of words.
  • I note that this is funny but do not laugh.
  • This Monday feels worse than a Monday.
  • I guess there’s always something public about secrets.
  • I wish liars just revealed themselves with a glow that others could see. But they don’t. And I don’t have the ability to read faces or tics or beads of sweat.
  • Or maybe I’m just projecting. I’m probably projecting. I’m a projector.
  • It looks like a 1950s diner where customers routinely get stabbed.
  • If I had seen a flying purple thing, I would be very, very frightened. As it stands, the fact that the guy driving saw it should frighten me more.
  • A man doesn’t stick his sausage in another man’s pizza!
  • How did people stay in touch before the Internet? Dr. Bird says, “Messenger pigeons are efficient and whimsical.” I think she’s joking.
  • When I stop breathing and try to come back into the moment to see if the anxiety is receding, I lose control and get anxious.
  • All I know is that I want to be okay, but I can’t even do simple things that other people do.
  • This is the hour I hide everything // Behind my eyes // To see if you can see / All the trouble my brain’s been brewing.
  • …because I can’t listen to someone else tell me how my life could be different if it were different.
  • My father yells at me with the kind of ire people usually reserve for an outburst a few days before writing a manifesto and then shooting office coworkers.
  • She and I seem to be poisoned with sadness in our blood.
  • …I can’t help but wonder how little he knows about the depth of my sadness.
  • I…but I feel nothing in my stomach. A full, round nothing.
  • I feel like I’ve been crying forever, but I can’t stop it. I have to keep going until someone tells me something that will make this all work out.
  • I walk on, feeling less manic but still bright. I’m not falling flat on the face of misery just yet. It might approach me quietly, but I’m not going to wave it in. I’m going to let it approach me face-to-face.
  • I guess sometimes life can be easy if I let it.
  • I’m using a voice I’ve never been aware I possessed. An adult voice. One that promises and threatens and has the power to do those things.
  • Dr. Bird says sometimes you have to move from a wire with no birds to one with lots of birds. I tell her that bird metaphors are not her normal method, and she blinks at me.
  • I feel like my life has become a string of desperate confessions.
  • …but I’m mad. I’m simply, precisely, acutely, agonizingly fucking mad. … My eyes burn, my fists clench. I breathe and picture Dr. Bird, who says, “Keep coo, keep coo.
  • But the old me is too tired to do a thing to stop the new me.
  • I nod and nod, tell them impossible things are possible.
  • It doesn’t seem possible; but maybe it’s just not easy.

Last Word

  • Yawp!

Reader, Author, Bookstagrammer, and Mom; Alexis runs Nerdy Post, a fandom artwork box as well as serves as chief editor and writer on Drop and Give me Nerdy.

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