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« You Choose (part 2) | Main | Trilling, Barzun, and the Colloquium on Important Books [by David Lehman] »

December 17, 2023


Bee all ye can BEE!
Fine poem!

I am allergic to bees but not to this wonderful.poem.

As I'm sure you, Ed Barrett, know, Emily Dickinson loved bees. But I doubt that she knew, or ever imagined, that their feet were cold, "shod with gauze," maybe, but not cold. There are a lot of factoids like that in this beautiful poem, and the popcorn simile is a very satisfying close. Thanks.

I love this poem for its focus on a specific place and how it shows us a brand new way to think about where we are. The early quoted speaker's words to himself are uncanny, and then we hear him move to his "moral judgement," a wonderful aside. The poem then shifts up into the wonderful short narrative of the bee on the toe. But then, speaking again of novelty (freshness) instead of ending with a predictably final, formulaic, profound gesture in conclusion, the poem ends with a wry apology and an idiosyncratic revealed kind of secret to beekeepers--a hilarious, endearing way to close the whole thing out!

I have been fortunate to see bees swarm, and to know there was nothing to be afraid of as I stood and watched thousands crowd so close together on a pole, to rest before continuing on their route to a new hive.

Thank you for this appreciative and beautifully devised poem, with its well-chosen illustration!

I once was making lemonade in a stand at an art fair and bees were all over my hands and arms. Stay still. They take a little sugar and come and go. Lovely poem.



Ah, the wonderful Ed Barrett with
his unerring affection, humor, and
perspicacity. Makes the saying “cold feet”
take on a whole new association. Honey.

I love this wonderful, funny poem and the beautiful artwork. It’s a favorite!

Bees yes!
Wasps no!
Poem yes yes

To bee or not to bee: that is the answer. I love the poem’s title first in Irish and then in English. The Irish had Yeats. The English had Shakespeare. I like the order even if Shakespearean doters might bristle. Ed Barrett’s poem unpacks beautifully. Lines 8-9 offer an admonition to bees (and humans) “relatively at peace until disturbed” and “probably at bee-war against other hives.” The narrator states “I used to have the same fear” of bees (line 13) until “I was awakened by a tickling feeling on my big toe” (line 16). That line is almost cartoonish in its matter-of-fact description, and the words “I was surprised at how cold bee feet felt” (line 21) elicit another disarming smile. The next line clinches the transformation: “I lost my fear of bees right then and there.” Fear festers in the absence of benign interaction. Interestingly, queen bees and worker bees are all female and do all the work. Drone bees are all male and wait for pollen or nectar brought to them by female bees. Also, a drone bee’s only job (ahem) is to mate with the queen bee.

Great poem! Save the bees!

I hate that I’m afraid of bees and must say it depends on the context in which I find them. This poem, however, I would enjoy in any context.

Looking fine there, Ed, at Com Dhineol Dunquin. Joe, Rosanne, and I miss those wonderful days in Vermont and in Cambridge staying with you, listening to Ligetti and other Ashbery faves with Pierre and you all. What a poem! So lively and real with much more than meets the eye.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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