The poem 'Poet, lover, birdwatcher' displays Ezekiel's views on poet's problems. Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher is one of the better known poems of Ezekiel and has received considerable critical attention. The message of them poem is clear, 'The best poets wait for words': the best poets began to write poetry only when they are truly inspired. It epitomizes the poet's search for a poetics which would help him redeem himself in his eyes and in the eyes of god. Parallelism is drawn between the poet, the lover and the birdwatcher. All the three have to wait patiently in their respective pursuits, indeed their waiting is a sort of strategy. Ezekiel attempts to define the poem in terms of a lover and the birdwatcher. There is a close resemblance among them in search for love, bird and word. All the three became one in spirit, and Ezekiel expresses this in imagery noted for its precision and decorum:
The hunts is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing...
There is no action, no exercise of will in the three cases, but patient waiting is itself strategy, a kind of planned action to reach the goal. The hunt is search for birds or the desire to win a women's heart. Patient love relaxing on hill is to assume an attitude of patience and relaxation while watching birds or women. A timid wing is a transferred epithet where the idea of a bird being timid is suggested. Until the one who knows that she is loved is for the man to wait for the woman to respond to his love out of her own accord, and should not force him upon her. In this poem poet finds his moral proved, who never spoke before his spirit moved.
The first section opens with a reference to 'pace' which is taken up in the second section by slow movement. The lines weave in and out of the three fields and emerge as single morals learnt. The first stanza refers to physical love and suggests how to win women. Women are treated as birds of prey. Making love is like the experience of hunting. Right weapons are to be chosen like appropriate words used by the poet. The lover manipulates the situation in such a manner that the women cannot resist but surrender at the cost of being blamed.
The second stanza stresses the fact that slow movement is good. One has to go to remote place just as one has to discover love in a remote place like the heart's dark floor. It is there, that women look something more than their body, and that they appear like myths of light. And the poet, in zigzag movements, yet with a sense of musical gladness, manages to combine sense and sound.
At the end of his wait, the poetic word appears in the concrete and sensuous form of a woman, who knows that she is loved and who surrenders to her lover at once. In this process, poetry and love, word and woman become intertwined. But this slow movement of love and poetry which shows no irritable haste to arrive at meaning does not come by easily. In order to possess the vision of the rarer birds of his psyche, the poet has to go through the deserted lanes of his solitary, private life; he has to walk along the primal rivers of his consciousness in silence, or travel to a far off shore which is like the heart's dark floor. The poet, then, gloats on the slow curving movements of the women, both for the sake of their sensuousness and the insight they bring.
All three are hunters, we are told: ironically none are going to devour what they succeed to hunt. The poem conducts a lesson through comparisons between the three poets, lover and birdwatcher. Poet is placed first in the title and in the poem he comes last. The differentiated placement is suggestive of who is learning and who becomes a lesson. Lover and birdwatcher are illustrative cases for the poet to learn the craft of poetry. The last two lines of both the sections indicate that the moral to be learnt is for the poet. The poem is well-structured poem in two regular stanzas having the rhyme pattern a b b a a c d c d d in each of them. It has a casual, conversational opening with a direct address to the poets, urging them to patiently wait for words as does a birdwatcher for birds and a lover for his ladylove.
The idea of labour and hard-work is implied here with regard to a bird watcher in search of rare birds and to a poet in search of the right words. 'And there the women slowly turn around, not only flesh and bone but myths of light': Only after undergoing an arduous journey may the lover get some response from the woman. The woman then becomes for him not just a being of flesh and blood, but appears as a radiant spirit which is not so much real, but mythical and imaginary. She is no longer a mere physical presence. The poet has thus glorified love as well as the woman who eventually responds to a man's love.