Aug 8, 2013

John Ciardi, "Lines": Bee Pirates

Bob the Pirate Boards the Ship
I don’t think these purple flowers are morning glories, but they’re a rich purple, and after an hour of searching for their name, enough’s enough. 

I’m telling myself it’s more interesting that they seem to be a chorus, or at least a barbershop quartet, groups of three or four heads leaning in one direction, mouths open, as if they’re shouting at or calling to the bees. 
Singing? Calling? Yelling?

Are the bees an enemy (pirates?) attacking or are they a food or friend or mate the flowers have been begging for?

Here’s a John Ciardi poem that captures the bee, if not the flower.

The opening image might be one of those verbal wonders that re-define our notion of a thing for the rest of time. How can we un-see bees as hunchbacks in pirate pants, with peg-leg hooks? 

On the other hand, I wonder if there’s enough in the poem. After the charm of the opening and the extended simile of pirates boarding a ship, what new insights are we given? There is the theme of fleeting beauty, of transience, but I wonder how much the poem changes our lives or our understanding. Is that asking too much of a poem? Yet some poems do that. 

About the photos: bees zip about so fast that their visit seems one slurp and they buzz off, no loyalty to any single activity or song—like pirates indeed, rapacious. Surely that excuses the blur in my photos—when in doubt, blame the subject. 

Bee Butt

Lines by John Ciardi : The Poetry Foundation


Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does Ciardi want us to know how well-traveled he's been. It's sounds like back-hand bragging. Again, that might be just me.

What I like:

I don’t think these purple flowers are morning glories/ but they’re a rich purple, and after an hour of searching for their name/ enough’s enough.

I’m telling myself it’s more interesting/ that they should seem a chorus or at least a barbershop quartet/ groups of three or four, heads leaning, in one direction/ mouths open, calling

Banjo52 said...

Holy cow, Hiker! Thanks for that! I'll start playing with it.

Jean Spitzer said...

Can't tell you what the flower is, but also like your description. And the bee butt.

PJ said...

It's interesting, the use of the bees in Ciardi's poem, as some of them do stop to rest and doze among flowers which is the most amazing thing I know about them. I used to travel a lot and it can make one feel disjointed and living doesn't seem like a straight line after all.

I agree with Hiker, the bit about the flowers is so good.

Cruel Garters Blog said...

I like the poem a great deal and hope that a deeper look into Ciardi (I've passed him by all these years) pays off. The opening line's syntax is both odd and perfect. I don't really take the litany of worldly travel as bravado. It reminded me of Frank O'Hara cherry picking details from a day in NYC, but on a global scale.

I'm flat-out missing the pirate references / metaphor. But the poem holds up for me. After all is said and done, it's those bees that made an impression on the speaker's life.

Banjo52 said...

Jean, welcome back and thanks!

Paula, I like your point about travel,

and Paula and C.Garters (love that handle, by the way), now that I have the TWO poems up, maybe the confusion clears? Sorry and a little embarrassed, but getting over it pretty well.

PJ said...

Help, the poems look the same to me, but then, I'm easily confused.

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