I received Timothy Stobierski’s book of poetry, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, in the mail a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t able to read it right away, due to a backlog of other books to read. Finally, I was ready to read it. And then, the impossible happened. I was alone. There was no five year old, there was no husband in the house, just the nine year old dog who mostly sleeps now. I grabbed Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer and started to read.
I loved it.
I’ve read, written and edited a lot of poetry in my life. From the novice poet to the advanced poet. I don’t presume to know what makes a good poem or a bad poem. Poetry can be fairly subjective. But there are certain things that make me close my eyes in pity and sympathy for both the poet and the poem. One is overused metaphors. Anyone who’s taken any sort of writing class knows this one. Then there’s the “I” illness. Some poetry focuses on I. I don’t mind first person narrative in a poem, but the I disease has poetry that goes “I feel.” “I raged.” “I longed for.”. Another is nursery rhyming structure. I also hate poets that shove all their poems into the same format. My list goes on.
Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer ‘s poems have none of these things. The author gives us perfectly formed poems, ones that last for three lines to ones that last for a couple of pages. His poems play with different structures, and end up perfectly suited to the poems themselves, and become part of the poem seamlessly.
“Foundation” is about a boy? Girl? (I assume gender to be boy, since the author is, but it’s never clear. I think we could fit it to either gender). He/she has been locked into the basement for days because the food they made for his/her’s father wasn’t to the father’s liking. Stobierski doesn’t write about this with the pathos you might expect. The child becomes a millipede, imagining leaving through the cracks.
“I have to get out, I have to
get out, I whisper
and transform into a millipede,
press my body into one of the cracks–
it doesn’t matter which, there are so many.”
“In the Maternity Ward” touched me. It might be because I have a child too, and saw my husband’s interactions with her. But, I loved how perfectly it captures what certain men might feel holding their newborn baby.
“He lowers his son
back into the basket
doesn’t know what else to do.
He’s not accustomed to being so gentle,
scares himself into laughter,
wants to cry.”
“Drinking Bubble Tea in a Back-Alley Restaurant in China Town” actually caused me to laugh out loud. I love how the author goes straight from the title into the next line, making the title the first line. The happenings in the poem, and the words used to describe it capture the fleshy sensuality of certain foods and translates that into more.
“the delicate creaminess of cold coconut milk
laced lightly with mango–
that leaves you aching, thirsty
There is a poem about Mario (yes, of Super Mario Bros fame) painting in such a way to make Degas proud.
I think what I loved about this collection of poems was the complexity of what Stobierski writes about. He doesn’t just focus on love, or abandonment, or guilt, or sex or any one of the other things that poetry can often center around. He gives us an offering of life, peeling it and separating it like an orange. He talks about good love, bad love, Mario painting and Degas, abuse, the roots of your family and how the beginning travels to the end. He talks about religion. He talks about watching someone with Alzheimer’s.
My favorite poem is “Aroma of Memories”. Not knowing for sure what the poet’s intent was, I can only focus on the poem that my experience gives me. I thought it was one of the most accurate portrayals of grief, and of how the tiniest things can trigger a whole story of memories, and the avalanche of grief that can follow. It reminded me of how years after my grandfather died, my cousin put together a video for our grandma for her birthday. She found some video footage from my grandpa when my aunt taped him giving me a message for my wedding, as he was too ill to come. At the end, he also spoke to my grandma who had come without him. When I saw it, I burst into tears, the end result of my whole story of memories.
“And at its source the genie’s
tail glows a reddish orange
like the sun. I’d put it in my mouth
if I thought that it would help me feel
a thing, any thing but this.”
I keep wanting to go on, with an “Ooo! Ooo! Look how he did this!” But really? Experience it yourself. Get your hands on a copy of Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, take it somewhere quiet, and live in the poetry for awhile.
Kimberly Campbell Moore has been known for over 30 years as the “girl who always has a book with her”. She is an avid reader who first attempted reading Poltergeist at age 6, it didn’t go well. She currently publishes in Sage Magazine online and blogs at 11andahalfyearsofbooks.wordpress.com.