There are no rules to know a good poem or discover a fine new poet. The good poem sings its own song. It rings true from its first line, the breath, pause and accent right, the sound word-music. As we listen or read we forget ourselves. We believe it as we believe any fine work of art. At first reading at least a phrase stays, a line sings in the mind, an image returns, because it is well observed, well-heard. The poem’s detail surprises, a familiar thing made new. A good poem becomes our own because it could not be said better.
All this describes the poems from Sean Borodale’s collection, Bee Journal, an apiarist’s journal, a year in the life and death of a swarm, from bringing the bees home in early summer, ‘noise of weight; /we carried this / through our proscenium of grasses’ to their winter silence, ‘in our hands the corpse of a city’. The poems are true, forensic, beautiful. We are startled by the mixture of the known and the new. Like Maurice Maeterlinck’s prose work, The Life of the Bee, this is bee-science as literature, nature poetry at its best.
Photograph courtesy of Todd Huffman