I often speak of my friend Rachel Bunting here – we met in New Jersey at the Poetry and Prose Getaway, we work together on the collaborative journal project Reflex, and she can bake a mean dessert as well as kill you with a wicked roundhouse kick. But she is also one of my favorite poets. I feel lucky to often be privy to her earlier draft work and then watch it as it finds its way into the world and blows everyone’s mind.
One of my favorite poems of Rachel’s is “The Apiary.” One reason I like it is that this poem is the reason I introduced myself to her at the Getaway. I had read and re-read this poem in Boxcar Poetry Review and recognized Rachel’s name on her name tag at the introductions event. But another reason is the poem itself. Go read at the link. Then come back and we’ll talk.
I love this re-imagining of Samson’s story, its tenderness and domesticity as a contrast to the violence of the Old Testament. The contrast of sweetness and strength is a potent one that has been explored in many ways, including the original telling of this story, and Rachel’s language strikes that balance as well. With a few exceptions, the entire poem consists of one and two syllable words. Strong. Straightforward. But they create moments of great tenderness: his lips shape my name in dreams; fingers a promise against my cheek;The whole world /opened in that moment: his hand cupping/ my face, my tongue touching the future/he planned. And the perfect combination of both ties together the poem at the end: the hard strength of daily labor collecting honey coupled with the tender memory of something lost.
Rachel’s website includes links to some of her other work on the web. You won’t be disappointed. She is 24, 379 kinds of awesome.
If you want to write:
1. Choose a Biblical or mythological character and pick a detail from his/her story to function as the focus of a poem.
2. Write a poem where you use your language and/or your structure to show a balance of contrasts: sweet/sour, strong/tender, day/night, soft/hard.
PS – Heading into the last few days of NaPoWriMo, and views of this post will surpass 25,000 visits to this little blog since it began. My sincere thanks to those of you who move that ticker ever forward. External validation, as Kathleen Kirk recently discussed, can feel pretty good. I hope that you enjoy or are inspired by your visits.