When I was a child, I learned a poem with a moral:
How Doth the Little Busy Bee
doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.
works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.
~ Isaac Watts
I suspect that I found Isaac Watts’ poem in one of my grandmothers old McGuffey Readers. At the time when they were published, much poetry written for children and taught in schools had the purpose of encouraging positive behavior (as defined by the author). I think I was in high school when I was introduced to a famous poem by W. B. Yeats, one that brought me much enjoyment because of its lyrical sound and beautiful images.
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
~ W. B. Yeats
This poem celebrates nature. It doesn’t attempt to teach a lesson. What I loved most about this poem—and still love most—is the phrase “the bee-loud glade” in the first stanza. I like the idea that the narrator of the poem can live in peace with nature, including bees. Although it could be argued that the heart of the poem is the lake or the cabin, the bees play an important role in the image planted on the reader’s mind.
Many poems have been published about bees. It was the theme of the Poetry Challenge in April 2015. it seems appropriate that we revisit the theme as the environmental threats against bees have grown.
The Avocet publishes only poetry related to nature. In the summer of 2021, they published this poem:
very much depends
upon the soft buzzing business
transforming bits of sunshine
into sweet golden lava;
food for the gods,
great grizzly bears,
for Winnie the Pooh,
or you, and me.
flower to flower,
falling fast asleep,
happy in fragrant embrace,
with friendly, fuzzy
sister in arms.
apples, almonds or apricots,
without their aeronautic devotions
no blueberries or blackberries,
no pears, potatoes or papayas,
no strawberries, sweet cherry or sesame;
no you, or me.
~ E. Kadera
In 2017, Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine published a poem with a similar message:
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one
One clover, and a bee.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
~ Emily Dickinson
Remember so you can answer
when your grandchildren ask,
what was the sound Yeats loved,
the sound of a bee-loud glade?
How big were the blueberries
you plopped into your cereal,
or served on ice cream?
What is this strawberry shortcake
you speak of with such nostalgia?
Explain that asparagus was green
and pointed, that its absence spears
your heart each spring.
Tell your grandchildren why
lovers called each other honey.
And when they pull out the collected works
of Emily Dickinson, say she was wrong.
Reverie alone is not enough
to make a prairie.
~ Wilda Morris
You can read the winning poems for the 2015 challenge at https://wildamorris.blogspot.com/2015/04/april-2015-poetry-challenge-winner-bee.html, then click on “older post” to see the example poems. The older post also includes an extensive list of poems related to bees, many with links so you can read them on the Internet.
The August Challenge:
The challenge for this month is a poem featuring bees (or a bee). Your poem may be literal or metaphoric, serious or humorous. It can be for children or for adults. It can be just for fun, or an attempt to motivate people to care for bees. Note that the blog format does not accommodate shaped poems or long lines; if a poem has long lines, they are used, they have to be broken in two, with the second part indented (as in the poem “Lilith,” one of the May 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print. Note, too, that long poems are at a disadvantage.
Poems could be disqualified if the guidelines are not followed.
1-Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages titles.
3-Put your submission in this order:
Publication data if your poem was previously published
A brief third-person bio
Your email address – it saves me a lot of work if you put your email address at the end of your submission.
4-Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. No colored type. Do not use a fancy font and do not use a header or footer.
5-You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet. Poems already used on this blog are not eligible to win, but the poets may submit a different poem.
6-The deadline is August 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards. Winners are published on this blog.
7-Please don’t stray too from “family-friendly” language (some children and teens read this blog).
8- No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published.
9-The poet retains copyright on each poem. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.
10-Decision of the judge or judges is final.
11-If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.
12-Send one poem only.
How to Submit Your Poem:
1-Send your poem to wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). The poem must respond in some way to the specific challenge for the month.
2-Put “August Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME in the subject line of your email.
3-Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win at the end of the poem.
4-Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment or both (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Put everything in the order listed above.
6-Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of punctuation in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However, I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.
Poems shorter than 40 lines are preferred.
After getting an M.Div, E. Kadera enrolled in a D.Min program in community development/activism. This was due to the environmental destruction we are experiencing through climate change. Much of her poetry reflects her love and concern for our natural world. She has been published in The Avocet: Journal of Nature Poetry.
Wilda Morris, Workshop Co-Chair of Poets and Patrons of Chicago and a past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, has published numerous poems in anthologies, webzines, and print publications, including The Ocotillo Review, Rockford Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, Modern Haiku, and The Kerf. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku, including the 2019 Founders’ Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Her latest book of poetry is Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (Kelsay Boks).
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Ireland. He is known for his role in reviving Celtic culture. He wrote poetry almost entirely in traditional forms. He was also known as a playwright and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Celtic myths feature in much of his work. Later in life he became more involved in politics, which also influenced his writing. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1932.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was a Congregational clergyman. He is most remembered for the hymns he wrote, including “Joy to the World,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.” He also wrote books on philosophy, logic, grammar, geography and astronomy. “How Doth the Little Busy Bee” is one of a number of his poems and hymns that were written for children.
© Wilda Morris