Paper Birds Don't Fly

by Al Ortolani

120 Pages, 5˝ x 8˝

Library of Congress Control Number:  2016931046

ISBN:  978-1-63045-026-7

Publication Date:  04/25/2016

Press Release

HD Cover for Reviews

Cover Art:  Playing with Fire
by Jacque Forsher  |


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Al Ortolani’s poems in Paper Birds Don’t Fly are a mix of small town memories and present day realities. They share both humor and sorrow, longing and contentment, often in the irony of a single experience. Many are set in Southeastern Kansas, a geographical region rich in the texture of its free-thinking people. The poems pinch the mundane arm. They bleed with the colors of everyday experience. Paper Birds Don’t Fly is as accessible to the reader as wind blowing autumn leaves or hedge trees intertwined with barbed wire, demarcating a bean field.


Paper Birds Don't Fly reads like a road trip through the Midwestern mind. It's a long book of poems, with room for many moods and musings as it meanders through a landscape of humor and insight. Ortolani has packed all we need for the journey: a friendly voice, a bit of music, and the deft hand of a true storyteller guiding the wheel.

—Timothy Green, Editor, Rattle

Al Ortolani stuns his readers like a stage magician. Leaves fall "like lazy sparrows" and a town "is pressed/into the hillside/like a wildflower." He abracadabra-s ordinary sights into miracles, like an origami paper bird sent from his dead father in a dream. Memory wafts through the familiar as the poet's steady, measured voice reveals how language is metaphor for everything. This book is essential reading in the 21st century.

—Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09 and author of Mélange Block

There is something quite unique to Ortolani's creation of a poem. It dips into a piece of Americana without being preachy or condescending, allowing for the reader to embrace what is on the page for themselves. That is a trademark of a great collection: allowing the reader to critically think on their own terms. There is a playful tone to this work but the feeling of it is poignant as hell. In the poem, "Writing Every Day," the first line states, "The cat woke me this morning..." and we certainly are glad the cat did.

—Thomas Fucaloro, author of Mistakes Disguised as Stars

Al Ortolani eases the reader into a boy's world so effortlessly in Paper Birds Don't Fly, a town where "time hung like a slow curve," we don't think about where he's taking us. This is the town he grew up in and is intrinsically a part of. Wilder's fictional town, Grover's Corners (Our Town) came to mind as I walked through it, poem by poem—a town I was sorry to leave when I got to the end. Anecdotal incidents involving friends and family, the day-to-day little things of their lives build to the universal. "Fifty years is a long time for boys, an impossibility for dogs, a big nothing for the sun."

—Linda Lerner, author of Takes Guts and Years Sometimes and Yes, the Ducks Were Real