Pollination in Poetry and Prose
Images and descriptions of pollination in poetry and prose have delighted us for centuries.
Even when intended to describe, educate, or motivate action, prose about pollination has a tendency to transcend the mundane.
In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson reaches our intellect with a sense of urgency and despair, but she also bestows a sense of wonder at nature and at our often contradictory actions.These insects, so essential to our agriculture and indeed to our landscape as we know it, deserve something better from us than the senseless destruction of their habitat. Honeybees and wild bees depend heavily on such "weeds" as goldenrod, mustard, and dandelions for pollen that serves as the food for their young. By the precise and delicate timing that is nature's own, the emergence of one species of wild bee takes place on the very day of the opening of the willow blossoms. There is no dearth of men who understand these things, but these are not the men who order the wholesale drenching of the landscape with chemicals.Nature writer and poet Diane Ackerman attacks our senses at a more basic level.A flower's fragrance declares to all the world that it is fertile, available, and desirable, its sex organs oozing with nectar. Its smell reminds us in vestigial ways of fertility, vigor, life-force, all the optimism, expectancy, and passionate bloom of youth. We inhale its ardent aroma and, no matter what our ages, we feel young and nubile in a world aflame with desire.Walt Whitman elicits a vision of bees that can¿t easily be swatted away in his journal Specimen Days.... I am sitting near the brook under a tulip tree, 70 feet high, thick with the fresh verdure of its young maturity - a beautiful object - every branch, every leaf perfect. From top to bottom, seeking the sweet juice in the blossoms, it swarms with myriads of these wild bees, whose loud and steady humming makes an undertone to the whole, and to mood and the hour.Some of our greatest English poets, past and present write of pollination in fact and in metaphor.To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, -There is also humor to be found in pollinators. The poor bee has taken the brunt of this.
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
- Emily Dickinson To make a prairie (1755)
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
- William Butler Yeats, The Isle of Innisfree (1893)
If my job were pollination,
I'd punch in early.
If my job were to walk
on soft petals and bump
the stamen of its fine gold
flour, if my job were to fly
in midday on my own wings
and leave a trail of sundust,
if this were my job,
I'd take no money, I'd give my time.
If this were my job I'd come home
to the honeycomb singing.
- Carl Adamshick, Work Dream (1999)
The butterfly's loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes
for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.
- Mary Oliver, from One or Two ThingsHoneybees are very tricky -You can find more poetry and prose on the Ecological Society of America Communicating Ecosystem Services Project under "Pollination Toolkit"/Presentation Aids
Honey doesn't make them sticky.
- Russell Hoban, children's writer
What are you gonna do? Sic your dogs on me? Or your bees? Or dogs with bees in their mouth, so when they bark they shoot bees at me?
- Homer Simpson