Award-winning poet Nick Flynn takes readers into the dangerous and irresistible center of the hive
I sit in a body & think of a body, I picture
Burnens' hands, my words
make them move. I say, plunge them into the hive,
& his hands go in. -from "Blind Huber"
Blindness does not deter François Huber-the eighteenth-century beekeeper-in his quest to learn about bees through their behavior. Through an odd, but productive arrangement, Huber's assistant Burnens becomes his eyes, his narrator as he goes about his work. In Nick Flynn's extraordinary new collection, Huber and Burnens speak and so do the bees. The strongest virgin waits silently to kill the other virgins; drones are "made of waiting"; the swarm attempts to protect the queen. It is a cruelexistence. Everyone sacrifices for the sweet honey, except the human hand that harvests it all in a single afternoon.
Blind Huber is about the body, love, and devotion and also about the limits of what can be known and what will forever be unknown. Nick Flynn's bees and keepers-sometimes in a state of magnificent pollen-drunk dizziness-view the world from a striking and daring perspective.
"Contemplative and empathic, Flynn discerns the essence of complex sensory and emotional states, writing with a light but commanding touch in poems that are at once airy and tensile. In his ravishing and award-winning debut, Some Ether (2000), he portrayed a boy coping with his young mother's suicide. Here, in a radical departure, Flynn imaginatively enters the rarefied existence of a French eighteenth-century beekeeper named Francois Huber, who, in spite of going blind during childhood, conducted groundbreaking studies of the hidden dynamics of hive life with the help of an assistant remembered only as Burnens. As fascinated by the bees' points of view as by Huber's phenomenal ability to divine their ways through sound, touch, and smell, Flynn writes with exquisite delicacy and transporting agility not only of the blind apiarist's vivid perceptions but also of the experiences of drones, workers, and queens. Spellbound within wax edifices beneath a honey rain, Flynn succinctly and resonantly contrasts the dense and thrumming bee realm with our own buzzing, bittersweet world of avid appetites and aggression, longing and valor. --Donna Seaman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Nick Flynn's 1999 debut, Some Ether, was a compelling piece of post- confessionalism, and a runaway success: Flynn depicted his suicidal mother, his vagabond father, and his own grownup torments, phrase by short, sophisticated phrase. This follow-up forsakes Flynn's own biography for that of the blind 18th-century beekeeper Francois Huber, who-with his assistant Burnens-discovered the outlines of what we now know about honeybees. The compact and compelling lyric sequence imagines Huber, Burnens, and the bees themselves as they reveal their nature and their behavior over Huber's long and patient life. Component poems-all in terse and deft free verse-take full advantage of Flynn's real knowledge of apiculture, and of his talent for punchy, self-contained lines. "We pollinate the fields," the bees say in "Queen," "because we are the fields." (Oct.) Forecast: Though lacking the memoiristic grab of Ether, this volume will still benefit from that one's success-and from Flynn's upcoming prose memoir, which focuses on his homeless father. The new book's unified subject also provides one more hook for feature and interview coverage in national and regional media; expect strong sales if such coverage does emerge. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
|| Saint Paul, Minn. :Graywolf Press,2002
89 pages ; 18 cm