Friday, September 6, 2019

If Bees Are Few

We are bees then; our honey is language. ~ Robert Bly

Maybe humans are not exactly bees, but we do depend on them. During a recent visit to the library I was pleased to find If Bees Are Few left on a table, and I sat down to read it. It's an anthology of bee poetry edited by James Lenfestey. It was published to call attention to the many threats that bees are up against, such as colony collapse disorder, the varroa mite, insecticides, and a reduction in food sources. 

The title comes from an Emily Dickinson poem To Make A Prairie:

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

Pablo Neruda's evocative Ode to Bees is included:

Multitude of bees!
in and out of the
crimson, the blue,
the yellow,
of the softest
softness in the world;
you tumble
into a corolla
to conduct your business,
and emerge
wearing a golden suit
and quantities of
yellow boots.

Some of the entries are more poetic than others, like this short and to-the-point entry from Sherman Alexie:

The bees are gone. 
We need new bees 
Or we are fucked.

If you happen to come across this lovely volume of accessible poetry, it may well "bee" worth your while. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist.)


  1. That sounds wonderful. I'm going to see if my library owns it and if we don't I will make sure we purchase it.

  2. Oh my! I love the poems you have shared! I just love watching the busy bees all over my garden. I could sit and watch them and never tire of doing so.

    Thank you for sharing such a great little treasure!

  3. I would try my hand at bee keeping if I wasn't allergic to stings. I think most folks underestimate or do not understand how much bees are integral to food production. And besides, they are perfect little examples of lives of industry and purpose. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Oh how I love this! I'm going to go on line to find a copy. Since Colin is planning to start raising bees next year, this would be a perfect gift for him! so glad you shared this Bonny!!

  5. I think this is a lovely idea for a collection. I'll keep my eye out for it!

  6. Our bees were very busy in the flower boxes last weekend. (Wondering how much there really is there for them?) Thanks for the poetry Bonny - good stuff!

  7. i used to be terrified of bees as a child and now I seldom see them. I'm glad we planted tons of butterfly bushes around the house as well as bee balm and phlox.

  8. still seeing our bees of many varieties clamor all over the stone crop that is blooming. Its dizzying to see all of them moving around crazily. Work bees, frost will be here in a month

    1. You are right to encourage those busy bees to keep working before frost comes!

  9. I just love the idea of this. I'll have to pick it up and read soon! I am reading an Emily Dickinson that is poems written on envelopes and flaps. It's so interesting and beautiful.

  10. I am going to look for this little anthology. I worry about the bees and I love poetry. Quite awhile back I read a natural history about bees and honey called "Robbing the Bees." I can't tell you much about it but I do recall enjoying the book.

  11. What a cool collection ... and I love the poems you shared with those photos! Our butterfly bush seems to attract way more bees than butterflies, but I try to remind myself that both are good!

  12. Perfect post for the near end of the summer season...and the poems are spot on! We should all “bee” so lucky to have a similar find. Thanks for sharing!


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