... is how Graeme Gibson and Margaret Attwood described themselves on their appointment as joint Honorary Presidents of the Rare Bird Club of BirdLife International.
Ramona Koval, the host of ABC Radio National's Book Show, interviewed them on their love of birds. The audio (about 35 minutes) and transcript are available here. I'm not sure for how long they will be available, so get on to it quickly.
Here's a taster.
Ramona Koval: I am thinking of it. I'm also thinking of another bird that has a bad press which is the vulture and I'm thinking about the poem that you wrote about the vulture. Margaret, would you like to read it?
Margaret Atwood: Yes, I'll say a couple of words about vultures before I read it, just in their defence because of course they're not, as you say... you may not feel cosy about birds but amongst those birds, you probably feel even less cosy towards vultures. There has been a crisis amongst the vultures in India which has caused a crisis of another kind because if the vultures do not eat carrion, if they're not there to eat dead things, of course you're going to get an abattoir type of situation. It was discovered that the cultures were being killed off by a certain kind of antibiotic that was being injected into livestock which the vultures would then eat and it was fatal to them. So you had a sudden die-off.
BirdLife International has now discovered the cause of that and is working with India to get a less fatal antibiotic put to use. So they're making a bit of a comeback. But it's things like this...we do things without having any idea of what the side effect is going to be, and there's a knock-on effect because kill the vultures and you've got another whole problem. That's my little vulture speech and now I'll read the vulture poem. If I were a 19th century poet I would be writing poems about nightingales and skylarks, but not being a 19th century romantic I write poems about vultures.
Hung there in the thermal
whiteout of noon, dark ash
in the chimney's updraft, turning
slowly like a thumb pressed down
on target; indolent Vs; flies, until they drop.
Then they're hyenas, raucous
around the kill, flapping their black
umbrellas, the feathered red-eyed widows
whose pot bodies violate mourning,
the snigger at funerals,
the burp at the wake.
They cluster, like beetles
laying their eggs on carrion,
gluttonous for a space, a little
territory of murder: food
Frowzy old saint, bald-
headed and musty, scrawny-
necked recluse on your pillar
of blazing air which is not
heaven: what do you make
of death, which you do not
cause, which you eat daily?
I make life, which is a prayer.
I make clean bones.
I make a grey zinc noise
which to me is a song.
Well, heart, out of all this
Carnage, could you do better?