HIVE-MIND | Suzette Bishop
As if hexed, bees disappear like the lost crew of a ship. Hive-Mind illuminates the real source of Colony Collapse Disorder: our destructive approach to nature. Reading Suzette Bishop's collection of poems, we move through humming hives of lyric poems, swarms of prose, and then toward a diminishing collage of fragmentary, disconnected thoughts, the result of fried neurons. This hybrid collection sounds an alarm about what else disappears with the bees: pollination, female power and enterprise, jars of honey, the bee-loud glade, the human colony. Suzette Bishop highlights caretakers of honeybees who are the most acutely aware of bees as humankeepers. We meet three Nineteenth-Century Texas beekeepers and Sylvia Plath—women who kept themselves in comfort, awe, and inspiration while tending to their hives.
What would it be like to make—even to hear—“reedy sounds like bees evaporating”? In her new book, Hive-Mind, Suzette Bishop interweaves multiple narratives that interrogate that space—through a mutual imploding of history, psychology, and familial lineage. In these poems, the pain of the mysteries looming over childhood is palpable, as is the death of more than 25,000 bees in an Oregon parking lot. What yokes together the seemingly disparate events of our lives, these poems argue, is a great swarm of multiple narratives that in their convergences and divergences heal the stung-luck of the tongue. “I am the Queen / slurring blur,” Bishop tells us, and she is bold and unwavering in her compassionate telling of the tender places where we gather to “help evaporate water / from the honey by flapping our wings.” —George Kalamaras, Poet Laureate of Indiana
Suzette Bishop's Hive-Mind is an ingenious primer—part inspirational, part instructional—that lures us into a fantasia about the kingdom (or queendom) of bees. Using passages and particulars from historical documents, scientific and environmental studies, literary references, folklore, and her own personal meditative lyrics, Bishop maps a geography with these many registers of diction and enacts the swerves and turns of a dancing lament for nature. This book illuminates mysteries, dangers, and necessities compelling us to "reach for, / a tiny unmistakable presence, / flower-fed and fine."
—Molly Bendall, author of Under the Quick
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Reviewed by Grace Cavalieri
Hive-Mind by Suzette Bishop. Stockport Flats. 79 pages.
A whole book about bees so highly imagined — all the many nouns and verbs attributed to bees make up literary content. But bees inspire — and tucked within the economics, history, ecology and folklore is imbedded a family's travail with its layers of disappointments and rejuvenations. In poem numbered "IV Best Wishes" a two page poem (beautifully designed) has telegrammed headlines : U.S. officials concerned about the economic ramifications of bees dying off and then,"...My mother doesn't kill my sister and me; she doesn't kill herself. She doesn't get/ a bus ticket and take us back to New York City, where she was from, The scenarios I /wonder about ,now. She goes away for a short while, a few weeks, perhaps a month, / my father is home more." Then a non sequitur: "I have had your dear letters in my hands for some weeks, and I cannot describe the pleasure it gives /me to receive such lovely long letters." The page is then laced with headlines of bee problems before we return to the story,"...And she returns, But not healed. She gets my sister and me to school, ballet, / handing us our lunches as we leave…" This is heart tearing humanity in contrast with a massive bee die-off. These two pages contain emotional trauma, disassociated responses, and bee news. Every page has a different order of design. The factoids are in bold type — and in between — in varying fonts, an array of chilling life detail. All this is so original it's a miracle it got published.
You are the dreaming man asleep
in a brown and purple haze,
you are an oboe asleep.
Purple mist rising off the mountains
and you are here, sleeping,
your dreams lifting like mist
from a mountain.
What are you hearing?
Dreaming man, man asleep near his oboe,
are you dreaming of it whole again?
Making reedy sounds like bees evaporating?