Buzz Words: Poems About Insects

Buzz Words: Poems About Insects

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Overview

Notes From Your Bookseller

The title alone is enough to make you giddy. As we’ve seen in the beauty of such books as Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders, nature can’t be celebrated enough. We love this small as a bug book of poetry. We get a renewed sense of the world from the clever chapters that divide each insect into their literary group — ants and bees in “Workers,” crickets and cicadas in “Singers” — to the impressive and diverse selection of poems.

A unique anthology of poems—from around the world and through the ages—that celebrates the gloriously diverse insect world.

Given that insects vastly outnumber us, it is no surprise that many cultures have long and rich traditions of verse about our tiny fellow creatures. Tang Dynasty poets in China and the haiku masters of Japan composed thousands of works in praise of crickets, grasshoppers, cicadas, moths, and butterflies, as well as such humbler bugs as houseflies, fleas, and mosquitoes. In the West, poems about insects date back to the ancient Greeks and appear frequently in Europe from the Elizabethan period onward. The brilliant poets collected here range far and wide in time and place, including Tu Fu, John Donne, Kobayashi Issa, William Wordsworth, Victor Hugo, Ivan Turgenev, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings, Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Xi Chuan, and Kevin Young. Bees, butterflies, and beetles, cockroaches and caterpillars, fireflies and dragonflies, ladybugs and glowworms—the miniature beings that adorn these pages are as varied as the poetic talents that celebrate them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101908266
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/06/2021
Series: Everyman's Library Pocket Poets Series
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 49,468
Product dimensions: 4.38(w) x 6.48(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

KIMIKO HAHN is the author of ten books of poems, including Foreign Bodies (2020). Hahn is a distinguished professor in the MFA program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College, City University of New York. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and is a former president of the Poetry Society of America.

HAROLD SCHECHTER is a professor emeritus of American literature and culture at Queens College, City University of New York, and the author of several mystery novels featuring Edgar Allan Poe, as well as coeditor of three previous Everyman's Library Pocket Poet volumes. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

FOREWORD

Scientists estimate that, at any time, there are ten quintillion insects on the earth – or, to put the figure in more comprehensible terms, more than 200 million insects for every human being. This is a sobering statistic to contemplate for the legions who share the sentiment expressed in the Book of Leviticus: “All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you.” It is, however, a useful reminder of the extent to which our world is made up of such creatures. And since (to quote Edward Hirsch’s A Poet’s Glossary), “the natural world has been one of the recurring subjects of poetry, frequently the primary one, in every age and every country,” it is no surprise that there is a rich body of verse on the creeping, scuttling, stinging things – Hexapoda, to use the proper entomological term – with which we share our planet.

That insects can serve as a suitable subject for poetry would come as no surprise to any child familiar with the various nursery rhymes about lady bugs, glowworms, and spiders (nitpickers like to point out that,strictly speaking, spiders aren’t bugs, but try telling that to Little Miss Muffet). Cultures other than our own have centuries-old traditions of insect verse. In China –where noblewomen of the Tang dynasty kept crickets in gold cages to serenade them at night – countless songs were written in praise of these “insect musicians.” The haiku masters of Japan similarly composed thousands of poems not only about crickets but also about grasshoppers, cicadas, firefl ies, dragonflies, and butterflies,along with such less prepossessing bugs as houseflies, fleas, and mosquitoes.

In the West, poems about insects date back t othe ancient Greek collection known as the Garland, compiled by the poet anthologist Meleager. In later centuries, insects feature so frequently in British works from the Elizabethan period onward that scholars have produced entire entomological studies of the literature (most notably, Pearl Faulkner Eddy’s “Insects in English Poetry,” subtitled “Bugs in Books,” a delightful forty-page survey that appeared in two successive issues of The Scientific Monthly in 1931). Insects appear in American literature beginning with the work of Philip Freneau – aka “The Father of American Poetry”– and extending to the sequence of bee poems in Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and up to the present moment.

Though his métier was prose, not poetry, the great French entomologist, Jean Henri Fabre, wrote so brilliantly on his subject that Victor Hugo dubbed him the “Homer of Insects” and Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral campaigned for his nomination for the 1911 Nobel Prize in literature. Addressing the reader in his 1918 book, The Life and Love of the Insect, Fabre asks, “What is the use of this history, what the use of all this minute research?” and responds with characteristic wit and eloquence: “I well know that it will not produce a fall in the price of pepper, a rise in that of crates of rotten cabbages, or other serious events of this kind, which cause fleets to be manned and set people face to face intent upon one another’s extermination. The insect does not aim at so much glory. It confines itself to showing us life in the inexhaustible variety of its manifestations; it helps us decipher in some small measure the obscurest book of all, the book of ourselves.”

Though the poems in this volume vary widely inregard to style, tone, genre, and theme, that recognition of the insect’s significance to our lives informs them all.

—Kimiko Hahn and Harold Schechter

Table of Contents

INSECTARIUM
ELIZABETH BISHOP Sleeping on the Ceiling
DAVID BUDBILL Bugs in a Bowl
JOHN CLARE Insects
HARRYETTE MULLEN From Urban Tumbleweed
ELISE PASCHEN Miss Spider’s Guests
WILLIAM ROSCOE The Butterfly’s Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast
ARTHUR SZE Windows and Mirrors
IVAN TURGENEV The Insect
 
WORKERS
KURT BROWN Bombing the Swarm
XI CHUAN The Ant’s Plunder
CAROL ANN DUFFY Virgil’s Bees
PAUL VALÉRY The Bee
RALPH WALDO EMERSON The HumbleBee
NICK FLYNN Workers (Attendants)
ROSS GAY Ode to the Beekeeper
JANE HIRSHFIELD Like an Ant Carrying Her Bits of Leaf or Sand
EDWARD LEAR “There was an Old Man in a tree”
JOSEPH O. LEGASPI Ants
MARK PAJAK Still Life
MAY SWENSON A Couple
JEAN TOOMER Beehive
CHARLES TENNYSON TURNER Eros and the Bee
ABIGAIL WENDER Fable
JAMES WRIGHT The First Days
 
SINGERS
MARILYN CHIN The Cricket
PHILIP FRENEAU To a CatyDid
RIGOBERTO GONZÁLEZ Cicadas
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES To an Insect
LEIGH HUNT To the Grasshopper and the Cricket
KOBAYASHI ISSA Haiku
JOHN KEATS On the Grasshopper and Cricket
JULIET S. KONO “Their caps blown off ”
VACHEL LINDSAY Crickets on a Strike
MELEAGER To the Cicada
THOMAS MOORE Odes of Anacreon: Ode XXXIV
JAMES TATE Cricket Cricket
CELIA THAXTER Foreboding
RICHARD WILBUR Cicadas
 
SPARKLERS AND SWOOPERS
FIONA BENSON Blue Ghost Firefly
LOUISE BOGAN The Dragonfly
OJIBWE Chant to the FireFly
W. H. DAVIES The Dragonfly
VICTOR HUGO The Dragonfly
STANLEY KUNITZ The Dragonfly
ILYSE KUSNETZ Bleach
D. H. LAWRENCE Fireflies in the Corn
ANDREW MARVELL The Mower to the Glow-Worms
HOWARD NEMEROV The Dragonfly
FRANK ORMSBY Fireflies
LEE SLONIMSKY Dragonflies in Love
TU FU Watching Fireflies
 
GLIDERS
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE The Butterfly
LINDA HOGAN Season of the Butterflies
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS “All as that moth”
RANJIT HOSKOTE Moth
DORA MALECH Little Offer
EDWIN MARKHAM The Night Moths
SHARON OLDS Monarchs
MARY OLIVER Great Moth Comes from His Papery Cage
CARL PHILLIPS Luna Moth
FREDERICK SEIDEL White Butterflies
JANE SHORE A Luna Moth
PAGE HILL STARZINGER Coronal
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH To a Butterfly
 
LEAPERS
E. E. CUMMINGS rpophessagr
ELLA DUFFY Mantis
KIMIKO HAHN Reckless Sonnet #2
YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA The Seventeen-Year Locust
RICHARD LOVELACE The Grasshopper
JAMES MERRRILL The Locusts
RAJIV MOHABIR Cryptic Mimicry
OGDEN NASH The Praying Mantis
MANOHAR SHETTY Praying Mantis
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON The Grasshopper
 
WEAVERS
ROSE TERRY COOKE Arachne
WILLIAM EMPSON Arachne
CAROL FROST Web-Making
EMILY DICKINSON “A Spider sewed at Night”
ROBERT FROST Design
WELDON KEES What the Spider Heard
VACHEL LINDSAY The Spider and the Ghost of the Fly
ROBERT LOWELL Mr. Edwards and the Spider
MARY RUEFLE Spider
TOM SLEIGH In Which a Spider Weaves a Web on My Computer Screen
GERALD STERN Spider
WALT WHITMAN A Noiseless Patient Spider
RICHARD WRIGHT Haiku
 
CRAWLERS
CHARLES BUKOWSKI Cockroach
NINA CASSIAN The Caterpillar
TOI DERRICOTTE New Orleans Palmetto Bug
CORNELIUS EADY The Roach
DIANE FAHEY Cockroach
ROBERT GRAVES The Caterpillar
LINDA GREGG The Grub
FADY JOUDAH The Very Hungry Caterpillar
MIHAELA MOSCALIUC Centipede
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI The Caterpillar
MURIEL RUKEYSER St. Roach
ROBERT W. SERVICE Death of a Cockroach
ANNE SEXTON Cockroach
CHARLES SIMIC Cockroach
MICHAEL WATERS Lord Cockroach
 
STINGERS, BITERS, AND SUCKERS
DAVID BAKER Mosquitoes
JILL BIALOSKY By the Pool
JOHN DONNE The Flea
RICHARD EBERHART Gnat on My Paper
PABLO NERUDA “Fleas interest me so much”
AIMEE NEZHUKUMATATHIL Mosquitoes
JOSÉ EMILIO PACHECO Mosquitoes
MICHAEL SCHMIDT Wasps’ Nest
WILLIAM SHARP The Wasp
MONICA SOK Ask the Locals
EDWARD TAYLOR Upon a Wasp Child With Cold
BRIAN TURNER Aedes Aegypti
KEVIN YOUNG Sweet Blood
 
PESTS
ELLEN BASS Flies
GABRIELLE BATES Fruit Flies
WILLIAM BLAKE The Fly
FABIÁN CASAS The Horsefly
IMTIAZ DHARKER The Host
WALTER DE LA MARE The Fly
EMILY DICKINSON “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died—”
ARACELIS GIRMAY luam & the flies
TERRANCE HAYES American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin
ROBERT HERSHON Restless in Spring
TED HUGHES Buzz in the Window
ANN INOSHITA Feva
GALWAY KINNELL The Fly
ANTONIO MACHADO Flies
THOMAS MACKELLAR To a Troublesome Fly
W. S. MERWIN The Rose Beetle
PAUL MULDOON Clegs and Midges
WILLIAM OLDYS On a Fly Drinking Out of His Cup
ALICE OSWALD Flies
YANG WANLI Cold Fly
 

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