Monday, July 13, 2015

Helen Macdonald

Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, historian, and naturalist, and an affiliated research scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. Her widely-acclaimed book is H Is for Hawk.

From Macdonald's Q & A with Nick Willoughby for Salon:

What was it that made you want to train a hawk in order to overcome your grief [over your beloved father's unexpected death]?

I repeatedly dreamed of goshawks after my father died and some unconscious compulsion told me that training a goshawk was necessary. You can’t tame grief, but you can tame hawks. And the goshawk, as I explain in the book, wasn’t just a deep distraction. It was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed and free from human emotions. I didn’t want to be me anymore. I wanted to be something like a hawk: fierce, living entirely in the present and untouched by loss.

The depiction of the hawk is beguiling: at first it is menacing and alien, but the reader soon empathizes with it. Did you go out with the intention of writing a nature book?

Not consciously. I actually had a very strong sense that I didn’t want to write a book that was nature writing. Growing up I used to love those books about nature that were written in that wonderful expert tone. They would say: This is the natural world, and this is what’s in it, and this is what it means. I wanted to write a book with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue