Award-winning poet Nick Flynn takes readers into the dangerous and irresistible center of the hive
I sit in a body & think of a body, I picture
Burnens' hands, my words
make them move. I say, plunge them into the hive,
& his hands go in.-from "Blind Huber"
Blindness does not deter François Huber-the eighteenth-century beekeeper-in his quest to learn about bees through their behavior. Through an odd, but productive arrangement, Huber's assistant Burnens becomes his eyes, his narrator as he goes about his work. In Nick Flynn's extraordinary new collection, Huber and Burnens speak and so do the bees. The strongest virgin waits silently to kill the other virgins; drones are "made of waiting"; the swarm attempts to protect the queen. It is a cruel existence. Everyone sacrifices for the sweet honey, except the human hand that harvests it all in a single afternoon.
Blind Huber is about the body, love, and devotion and also about the limits of what can be known and what will forever be unknown. Nick Flynn's bees and keepers-sometimes in a state of magnificent pollen-drunk dizziness-view the world from a striking and daring perspective.
Nick Flynn's 1999 debut, Some Ether, was a compelling piece of post- confessionalism, and a runaway success: Flynn depicted his suicidal mother, his vagabond father, and his own grownup torments, phrase by short, sophisticated phrase. This follow-up forsakes Flynn's own biography for that of the blind 18th-century beekeeper Francois Huber, who with his assistant Burnens discovered the outlines of what we now know about honeybees. The compact and compelling lyric sequence imagines Huber, Burnens, and the bees themselves as they reveal their nature and their behavior over Huber's long and patient life. Component poems all in terse and deft free verse take full advantage of Flynn's real knowledge of apiculture, and of his talent for punchy, self-contained lines. "We pollinate the fields," the bees say in "Queen," "because we are the fields."