Reviews

 

"The author notes in her introduction the shortage of biographical information about Lucy Bakewell Audubon. 'While Lucy’s words can be found in her surviving letters, we most often glimpse her obliquely, in the shared life as told by others, the spotlight on her flamboyant husband. This is a poet’s loss and luxury.' Dowd uses that loss and luxury fully, incorporating what is known, and intuiting what is not. Ultimately, the author lets Lucy quietly step into the light and command center-stage of her own story ... Audubon was artist and ornithologist, Lucy was both teacher and musician, and Audubon’s Sparrow as a book is artfully produced by Rose Metal Press: a small feather floats at the corner of each page, reproductions of Audubon’s plates, and portraits of Lucy and her husband add another dimension. Dowd’s combined depth of research and imaginative understanding, results in a remarkable work—brief, spare, and deeply rewarding to read. Ellen Prentiss Campbell, NY Journal of Books, May 2020.

 

“Dowd’s literary Audubon’s Sparrow: A Biography-in-Poems is as delightful and colorful as the famous avian sketches of the renowned bird watcher. The poet records the lives of Lucy and John James via facts and imaginings, told mainly through Lucy’s viewpoint. Actual journal entries by Audubon are set in italics to distinguish fact from fiction … In poems rendered simply and generally expressed in the fewest possible words, Dowd conveys the fears and struggles experienced in frontier life. Some of the poems are aided by notes given at the back of the book. Added to these notes are other useful items: A Chronology, a Bakewell-Audubon family tree, a list of works cited … All of these elements, along with the beautiful cover produced by Rose Metal Press that uses a special font styled after Colonial America-type print, make this an outstanding volume.” Carole Mertz, MOM EGG REVIEW, April 4, 2020

“ 'What does it mean to sacrifice for someone else’s art?' Juditha Dowd asks in the preface of her newest collection, Audubon’s Sparrow, a biographical portrait based on extensive research and crafted in an elegant tribute to Lucy Bakewell Audubon, wife of John James Audubon. Written principally in Lucy’s voice and by a motif of fictional diary entries, letters, and poems, Dowd’s graceful verse honors Lucy’s story as one of laudable triumph over the crushing financial struggles, deep personal losses, and challenges to hope she endured in offering free reign to her husband’s drive to succeed as an artist … Given the arc of this collection … it’s tempting to give in to feelings of disdain for Audubon. But this is a love story which portrays, in Lucy’s triumph over one obstacle after another, her fortitude in the face of the traditional promise: …for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer… and Dowd handles it with deft precision, offering us enough instances and entries from Audubon’s journal, of his own anxieties as an artist, almost helpless in his drive, as well as his perseverance through the arduousness and length of time it took to have his work finally recognized and published.” Bernadette McBride, SCHUYLKILL VALLEY REVIEW, March 12, 2020

“…Most of what historians know about Lucy's reality is through the words of others. In Audubon’s Sparrow Dowd presents what she imagines would have been Lucy's perspective, making it a deeply feminist retelling … Of course, the central question Dowd’s book poses—'what does it mean to sacrifice for someone else’s art?’— applies far beyond Lucy Bakewell Audubon. Many of history’s most famous creative figures were supported or cared for by women who sacrificed to foster their achievements. Often, it was that woman’s loving choice to do so, as to Dowd, Lucy’s own story illustrates. But such a choice is also impossible to separate from the societal expectations that steer women on this path.” Jessica Leber, AUDUBON MAGAZINE, March 24, 2020.

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