Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The buzz word.

This week sees the announcement of the short-list for the TS Eliot prize for poetry. Amongst stalwarts such as Simon Armitage and Sharon Olds there is newcomer Sean Borodale, nominated for his poem-journal ‘The Bee Journal’, which was published in July. 

Borodale’s journal reminded me of the prolific amount of poems devoted to bees. I recently attended a reading by Carol Ann Duffy, who has also written a collection on Bees (‘The Bees). Duffy spoke of Bees as inspiring her with their productivity, community and naturalness. Duffy also made mention of another poet who wrote of Bees: Sylvia Plath. 

In the work of Borodale, Duffy and Plath we have three generations of poetry on Bees. Although Britain has changed substantially in that period, the nature of their poems remain somewhat similar. There is something about Bees then, which is unchanging, persevering, and resistant to outside influence. Their pre-historic preservation again the whirring wheel of time makes them a subject which I envision poets will write of for generations to come. 

‘27th August’
The spider's season opens,
rat tooth-marks appear;
almost just a tempering of vision.
So, in a coat
I go up to the ochre house of you in there.
How bees touch and re-align their touch.
Light in migration;
noise of a body in continual repair ...
by Sean Borodale.

‘The Bee Carol’
Silently on Christmas Eve,
the turn of midnight’s key;
all the garden locked in ice -
a silver frieze -
except the winter cluster of the bees.
Flightless now and shivering,
around their Queen they cling;
every bee a gift of heat;
she will not freeze
within the winter cluster of the bees.
Bring me for my Christmas gift
a single golden jar;
let me taste the sweetness there,
but honey leave
to feed the winter cluster of the bees.
Come with me on Christmas Eve
to see the silent hive -
trembling stars cloistered above -
and then believe,
bless the winter cluster of the bees.
by Carol Ann Duffy.

Sylvia Plath ‘The Arrival of the Bee Box’ -


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