Introducing Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah
Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah: The Song of the Willow Tit is a beautifully crafted, limited edition pamphlet arising from a collaboration between the poet Steve Ely and the artist PR. The pamphlet is the inaugural publication of the Wild West Press, a newly established imprint of the Ted Hughes Project (South Yorkshire). Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah is published in partnership with Back from the Brink, The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The poems arise from and address the plight of the willow tit, one of the country’s fastest declining species of bird. Since 1970, the willow tit’s numbers have declined by 95% and its range has contracted by more than 50%. Paradoxically, the post-industrial sites of the North — former colliery and industrial sites, disused railway lines and canals — often provide very good willow tit habitat, and the species still hangs on in reasonable numbers in South Yorkshire, where our three partners are conducting extensive research that will produce results that might inform a nationwide recovery project for the bird.
Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah confronts and addresses the depredations of the Anthropocene, but in a way that avoids on-the-nose eco-ranting, adding depth and range by incorporating autobiography, memory, humour and pop cultural references into its expression. The sequence culminates in the appalling revelation of the meaning of the willow tit’s song and the following Blakean apocalyse: ‘The dead were dead already. The quick/transformed in air. All the quick were dead save me.’ PR’s elusive watercolours add a moving elegiac dimension to the pamphlet – and intensify Ely’s evocation of a world on the edge of disintegration, of once-familiar nature beginning to pass away.
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