Transformation, calm, multiplicity, unity, felicity, disturbance, revelation…
To poets, the kingfisher magically embodies all of these ― a joining of opposites, a preservation of variety, an embrace of challenge and change. “What does not change is the will to change,” begins Charles Olson’s poem “The Kingfisher.” In Greek mythology, the kingfisher paradoxically is associated both with transformation ― the story of Alcyon and Ceyx whom, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Zeus turned into a pair of birds ― and with the idea of “halcyon days” ― a period of calm seas and of general peace and serenity. In Gerald Manley Hopkins sonnet, “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame,” the iridescent plumage of this spectacular bird is celebrated as an image of both the multiplicity and unity of God’s creation. And in Amy Clampitt’s poem, which bears the same title as Charles Olson’s, “a kingfisher’s burnished plunge, the color of felicity afire, came glancing like an arrow/through landscapes of untended memory.”
The College of Humanities extends this poetic tradition by adopting the kingfisher as a symbol of these fundamental concepts that we in the Humanities practice and teach. We believe in their profound and lasting importance.
We are pleased to offer you these past issues of the Kingfisher, and thank you for the role you play in promoting our mission of lifelong learning.