Monday, February 04, 2008

A Handful of Bees" Poems by Dzvinia Orlowsky

"A Handful of Bees" Poems by Dzvinia Orlowsky

Carnegie Mellon University Press 1994

A Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary 2008

Copyright © 1994 by Dzvinia Orlowsky

ISBN 978-0-8748-485-8

Review by Mike Amado

Recently, I read on the website, "the drunken boat .com" an introduction by

Dzvinia on her poems published there. The on-line pieces bring to light

Mrs. Orlowsky’s ordeal with breast cancer, but more importantly, recovery

and survival. I quote from that intro:

"I recall, after completing my 6 months of chemo treatment, the utterly strange sensation of crying into my goggles as I swam laps. Moments of helplessness coupled with moments of great faith and resolve. One eye laughs while the other weeps. Poetry, thank God, allows that—it makes room for all of that, for all of us."

This very thesis is also the lode stone of "A Handful of Bees".

Originally published in1994 by Carnegie Mellon University Press,

this book has been republished as a classic by Carnegie Mellon and

is truly a classic. The collection embarks with poems reflecting

on the passing of Mrs. Orlowsky’s father ( to whom the book is dedicated).

Orlowsky raises the tragedy of losing a parent to a universal plane that’s

both earnest and cathartic, where, even simple belongings of the deceased are

imbued with power and testimony. In "Barn Lumber", both speaker and mother of

the speaker feel a commingled remembrance of the father through regular objects

that the he himself has made:

"I understand now, these reminders she keeps.

One, a barn lumber table

on which she burns a hurricane lamp.

Another, a rifle propped

against the window of her bedroom,

bulletless, but labeled with tape

marked ‘dangerous.’"

There is a thread of sadness that plaits its way through this volume.

Even through the poems on life with immigrant parents, there is a stark,

visible yearning. The world of home and the world outside and

the conflict of the two to coexist. A situation that many Americans

of any given ethnicity can immediately grasp. "First Generation" starts off:

"It was good to be first at something

even if it meant parents

who by speaking

shut out the world

except for my sister, and me

and Bimko, our dog,

who understood bilingual commands."

Imagery in "A Handful of Bees" is never random, but lucid, in the moment like

hot glass forged into a sharp gem. In "To Our Cosmeticians", Orlowsky examines

with knowing clarity the disparate perceptions of women.

(She defines the "Before Woman" in this poem as having, " . . .no lips to speak of",

and the "After Woman" as being, ". . .known to bite.") Ultimately, the speaker declares:

"If you ask me what season I am,

I would say late fall -

just at the time

when trees give up

and drop their leaves."

"A Handful of Bees" is immediately personal, international, and, filtered through

the prism of the heart, these poems come forth universally. Dzvinia Orlowsky

films a screenplay for the intuition. In just this one volume of sixty one pages

she undefeatedly answers as many life questions as she has conjured.

With stealth, imparting the reader a sense of "being there" in the human condition.

Mike Amado/ Ibbetson Update/ 2008/ Somerville, Mass.

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