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Up, Up, on Implausible Wings


Anyone who ever sets foot in Iceland can’t help but notice the puffin. Over my ten years living there, I watched this bird transform from a humble member of the Icelandic fauna to the cute and quirky creature that now symbolises the country: downtown Reykjavík has been overrun by its effigies, and tourists can’t seem to get enough. Meanwhile, numbers of actual Atlantic puffins have been dwindling, an uncomfortable irony not lost on the environmentally conscious.


Why was the puffin – relatively absent from Icelandic poetry and prose – such an easy receptacle for contemporary nationalistic ideas, and can this newfound status help the plight of the species? To explore these questions, my essay “Up, Up, on Implausible Wings” ties together seemingly unrelated threads of the bird’s symbolic value, interwoven with personal anecdotes, interviews, and natural history observations.


Awarded an honourable mention in the 2018 Carve Magazine Poetry and Prose Contest, the essay was originally published in Carve’s Spring 2019 issue. An interview about the writing of this piece can be found on the Carve blog. Click “Read on” for the full text.

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