Susan Kay Anderson created “Digression” from Anna Botsford Comstock’s How to Keep Bees (1905). Please click here to read.

About the poem and the process of composing it, Susan Kay writes:

These are words and phrases I found in the Preface of the handbook. Here are some of my thoughts as I read, variously, in How To Keep Bees, a book so complex and technical that reading it caused me to dream and lose track of time and place:

– I am looking for a way into this material. It flirts so much that I find I cannot flirt back and become bashful with the material in How To Keep Bees.

– Bees parallel our human civilizations and also transcend them. This handbook attempts to be demure but is wild and unruly.

– Working with How To Keep Bees makes me feel more alive.

– This handbook is a sacred text. No wonder my Onkel Hans and Tante Hedel spoke so reverently about the bees he kept in their apple orchard in Germany.

I had to pull myself back from the text and look for what was beside the point of bees and bee keeping because it became overwhelming, kind of like when bees swarm. This got me thinking about a dear friend who died somewhat suddenly after being sick a long time with cancer and about illness during the time of this pandemic. Since I thought I was fairly comfortable with found material because of my first book of poems, Mezzanine, which also uses found material, I thought this project would feel the same. The feeling isn’t the same at all. It is almost as if the material found me or was grabbing my attention in a way that mimics its topic: “keeping” or holding onto, and “bees” or being, being alive.


Also by Susan Kay Anderson at HERON TREE: “The Problem,” which you can visit or revisit by clicking here.