Friday, August 01, 2014

The Hive Is a Book We Read For its Honey By Gerry Grubbs


The Hive
Is a Book We Read For its Honey
By Gerry Grubbs
Dos Madres Press
Loveland, Ohio
ISBN: 978-1-939929-04-4

Review by Dennis Daly

Some of the best writers of poetry, by cultivating their art in public, seek to both gather in and pass on unanticipated inspiration. Their images and lines don’t prescribe direction or logic, rather they release the human heart to connect with the universe’s numinous energy. That’s what Gerry Grubbs does in his new collection of poetry entitled The Hive.

Each poem in Grubbs’ book transports one to the exotic realm of honeybee and hive with concomitant imagery and symbolism. The poet seems to leave much of what happens next to the imagination. But his suggestive techniques, along with his compositions, living real lives of their own, convey the reader to a heliopause of sorts on the edge of the unknown. Then things get really interesting.

In the poem Sometimes in the Evening Grubbs conjures up the sacred nature of life and how it works on the raw material of existence. A Promethean bee has stolen a bit of the fire, which transforms him and also his community. The poet explains,

…I think of the bees
Who would finish the work
Taking that fire
Back to the hive burning
Of that red honey
Dripping like the petals
It was stolen from
I think of that little thief
Who desires to disappear
Into the night
But cannot

Words do matter. They are the elements of communication and their connections create what otherwise does not exist. Observing the methods and results of these connective arts Grubbs says,

A few words
Can disturb the bees
A few thoughts
Can disturb the flowers
It is enough
To watch them
Serenely touching
Giving what effort is required
Mindful of each dip and buzz

My favorite piece in this collection the poet entitles Location. A man wanders through an orchard presumably seeking something. Yet he becomes the object as the divine muses seek him out. The orchard blooms with the heaviness of ripened fruit, or perhaps it doesn’t.  Perhaps all is potential. Timelessness revolves around the man as inspiration seeks to locate him, his potential poems in abeyance. The poem concludes this way,

…his feet
Lets him know what the earth
Looks like in all kinds of weather

Time unfolds from his pocket
Like a map on which the stars
Try to locate him the way bees

Locate the blossoms
From which they spin
Their rich honey

The need for poetic inspiration every artist feels. When ideas don’t come, a dreadful helplessness results. Happy is the writer who has been found by his muse and stocks up a surfeit of honey for the future. Grubbs describes this type of wealth in his poem We Want so Much. Here’s the heart of the piece,

We want so much

We cultivate them
In white boxes out back

Or in tops of tall trees
The way honey men do
Those whose wealth
Is measured in bees

In a sense this poet passes on part of the creative processes to his audience. Both poet and reader must wait for the poem to find them before any cultivation can take place.

Flowers not only provide nectar to the bees; they are an everlasting source of raw material that could, if there is an attendant will, be turned into poetic art. In Grubbs’ piece called The Rose the flower becomes the spoken word, a woman reading. Gertrude Stein would have appreciated the meditational value of the never ending construct A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose…. Grubbs’ eternity emphatically transforms itself into an Eden as the poem opens,

This is my version
Of paradise
And you are in it
And a woman
 So slowly
That each word
Lasts forever

Strangely, good poets often bring their poem to a conclusion by a process of forgetting. They forget their original plan, their grand set of ideas which propelled them onward. The poem captures them and turns them into metaphysical beings beyond their earthbound natures. Grubbs’ poem How to Lose Something explains this eerie construct. Here are the essential lines,

Finding yourself alone
In the woods
You will believe
You came this way
For some good reason

And so you begin
The gathering of things
You find along the way

All the time
Believing you had something
But can’t remember what

Grubbs hints at an unfathomable world of unseen mechanisms. Secrets are the norm in this geography of dreamtime. Like Plato observing life through its shadow- manifestations, the poet inhales the deep fragrance of other souls. He says,

The bees busy
Passing secrets
Back and forth
Between the apple
When I fell asleep
Within my dream
And when I awoke
From my second sleep
There was only
The fragrance
Of those blossoms
Gathered like worshippers
Of the moon

The poetic introduction to this collection offers a warning for those of us seeking sweetness in life or art and suggests attendant smoke. There are, after all, dangers in every hive. Drowsy bees are best. Shed whatever hubris you bring with you and wonder what comes next. You won’t be disappointed.

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