Today in the ArtZany! Radio studio Paula Granquist welcomes writer, journalist, poet, author, editor James P. Lenfestey, editor of the new collection If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Poems from University of Minnesota Press (upress.umn.edu).
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If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems
2016 • Edited by James P. Lenfestey
Foreword by Bill McKibben
Afterword by Marla Spivak
It is said there are 20,000 species of bees, a genus 50 million years old, but in the fertile imagination of the world’s poets, there is no beginning or end to the bee buzz. Virgil wrote of bees, as did Rumi, Shakespeare, Burns, Coleridge, Emerson, Mandelstam, Neruda, Whitman—a lyrical hum heard well into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in poems by Yeats, Lawrence, Plath, Mary Oliver, Carol Ann Duffy, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Sherman Alexie, among many others.
The title of this book is from Emily Dickinson: To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, / One clover, and a bee, / And revery. / The revery alone will do / If bees are few. Her conclusion resonates with a terrible poignancy today, as bees are indeed becoming few—hives collapsing, wild species disappearing. Amid this crisis, the poems collected here speak with a quiet urgency of a world lost if bees were to fall silent.
If anyone can save the bees, it is entomologist Dr. Marla Spivak and the hive of bee scientists and beekeepers at the Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota. A portion of the proceeds from this anthology will be donated to support research at the Bee Lab.
James P. Lenfestey is a former editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where he won several Page One Awards for excellence. He has published a collection of personal essays, five collections of poems, the poetry anthology Low Down and Coming On: A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems about Pigs, and coedited Robert Bly in This World, also from Minnesota. His memoir with prose and poems, Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain, Milkweed Editions, was a finalist for the 2014 Minnesota Book Award.
Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes called the “alternative Nobel,” in 2014.
Marla Spivak is an entomologist and Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota. In 2010 she was awarded a grant from the MacArthur Foundation for her pioneering research on honeybees. She heads the University’s Bee Lab (www.beelab.umn.edu).