|Photo by Wilda Morris|
While preparing to post the winners this month, I noticed that the automatic spell checker on my computer objected to making “honey bee” and “bumble bee” two words each. I was about to ask the winning poets if I could change those words in their poems but decided to do a little research on the topic.
It appears that, despite the usage recommended by many dictionaries, entomologists insist that honey bee SHOULD be two words because a bee is not honey. In contrast, “yellowjacket,” “dragonfly,” and “silverfish” are each one word, because a yellowjacket is not a jacket, a dragonfly is not a dragon, and a silverfish is not a fish. I decided to side with the entomologists—and the poets.
Bees turned out to be a popular subject, so judging the contest was difficult. E. Kadera, this month’s judge, selected first- and second-place
winners and one honorable mention. Here is the winning poem.
Are Kisses Sweeter Than Tupelo Honey?
bee hives, heavy with resplendent summer,
hang honey from myriad roofs of the comb.
in this subdivision of golden-walled houses,
and groundskeepers dressed
like Kendo masters,
dance around sweetness
and one another.
pre-hive to palaces of sweetness,
its workers carted by truck,
lugged to these farms
like so many prisoners in stripes,
not locked up
but limited by fertile radii
of flight paths,
to stick close, to pollinate
cantaloupe vines, lemon trees, buckwheat, almonds,
apples, onions, broccoli, avocado
and carrot crops.
every honey hive’s 12,000 angels of
hum in C-sharp below middle C,
each devotee devoting an entire lifetime
to turn out 1/12 of a teaspoon
of nuanced lavender flower or orange blossom,
transforming pre-digested nectar in wax cells
into nature’s perfect food,
a recipe field-tested for 10 million years
freshly cured by the fanning of wings.
This poem was previously published in Cynthia’s poetry collection Epicurean Ecstasy: More Poems About Food, Drink, Herbs & Spices, The Poetry Box, Portland, 2019.
Kadera explained her selection of his poem for first place by saying, “I liked the imagery used, from ‘heavy with resplendent summer,’ to ‘Kendo masters.’" She also liked" hives as ‘palaces of sweetness,’ bees as ‘prisoners in stripes,’ and the ‘12,000 angels of agriculture’ humming in ‘C-sharp.’ All the way down to the tiny amount of honey generated by one bee in a lifetime. Honey both ‘field tested for 10 million years’ and “cured by the fanning of wings.’” The poem is both poetic and informative.
How many bees are there in a day?
We stood together
beneath the crab apple’s
wide umbrella: Listen, you said,
let’s not leave anything out–
And so we faced each other,
in that green afternoon light, paying
attention– the bees’ rhapsody
swelled above our heads
like wishes, like shooting stars.
~ M.J. Iuppa
This poem was first published in Untitled Country Review.
The judge liked the epigraph, and commented on the “concise
beauty” of the poet's “words and images.” This poem was selected for second place.
Poets retain copyright of their poems.
Martin Rocek for “Carpenter Bee” - Kadera’s comments for Martin: “Thank you for poetically setting the record straight regarding the carpenter bee. “
Cynthia Gallaher, a Chicago-based poet, is author of four poetry collections, many with themes, including Epicurean Ecstasy: More Poems About Food, Drink, Herbs and Spices, and three chapbooks, including Drenched. Her nonfiction/memoir/creativity guide Frugal Poets’ Guide to Life: How to Live a Poetic Life, Even If You Aren’t a Poet won a National Indie Excellence Award.
M.J. Iuppa’s forthcoming fifth full length poetry collection from Kelsey Books, The Weight of Air, will be published soon. Her chapbook of twenty-four 100-word stories, Rock. Paper. Scissors. is in the queue at Foothills Publishing. For the past 33 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog: at mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.
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.
Martin Rocek is a professor of physics studying supersymmetry and string theory at Stony Brook University in New York, and enjoys reading and writing poetry. He was born in Prague, and came to the United States in 1960.
© Wilda Morris