A Necklace of Bees


Poems by Dannye Romine Powell
978-1-55728-879-0 (paper)
July 2008


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With a quirky poignance, Dannye Romine Powell’s third collection probes the nature of loss—loss that’s actual and loss that’s feared. In these poems, loss takes many guises. With its ferny breath, loss is sometimes the lover who waits in secret on the porch. Sometimes even loss recognizes the feeling of loss and “calls the cops / to say his best friend / went fishing and won’t answer his phone.” Often, the poet mourns a loss of innocence, as when she learns, after attending the funeral of a friend, that the dead woman’s husband has a history of infidelity. There’s also the loss of romantic love, as when the woman “pulls / toward shore, a shore she calls by a name / she swore she’d never breathe again.”

At the heart of this collection, however, is the poet’s dread of losing an alcoholic son, a son whose anticipated death provokes the poet into a dialogue with “Mrs. Caldwell,” the fictional hero of Camilo Jose Cela’s novel, Mrs. Caldwell Speaks to Her Son. The poet chides Mrs. Caldwell, who mourns her son Eliacim’s death at sea, while at the same time, she aligns herself with her: “Certain words, Mrs. C., we mothers must not utter / to our sons. I keep a list. Slippers is one. Lilac another. Wreath. Tremble, Perfumed. Silk. Flutter. And, barefoot, of course.”

This fear of loss prompts the poet to consider how she might tell her alcoholic son’s young daughter of his death, should it happen. “Perhaps I should begin today,” she muses, “stringing / her a necklace of bees. When they bite / and welts quilt her face, when her lips / whiten and swell, I’ll take her by the shoulders. ‘Child, listen to me. / One day, you’ll see. These stings / are nothing. Nothing at all.’”

Dannye Romine Powell is the author of two books of poetry, At Every Wedding Someone Stays Home and The Ecstasy of Regret, both published by the University of Arkansas Press, and Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers. The Ecstasy of Regret won the Brockman-Campbell Award and the Oscar Arnold Young Award and was a finalist for the Southeastern Booksellers Association Poetry Award. Powell writes on life in Charlotte and the Carolinas for the local section of the Charlotte Observer. She was the newspaper’s book review editor for nearly twenty years.

“Dannye Romine Powell’s luminous new poems seem places we’ve all been, made of words we wished we had said: where we take the dead shopping, where Loss is made flesh, and where a son and a garden teach us too much about sacrifice. Bravo!”
—Alan Michael Parker, author of Love Song with Motor Vehicles

“The poems in A Necklace of Bees are lyrical, passionate, intimate, and nervy, and they respect the complex reality of love. They do not gloss; they do not lie. They tell the beautiful, painful truth.”
—Kelly Cherry, author of Hazard and Prospect: New and Selected Poems