On Bees

When I first saw Solidago’s elegant web site, I was delighted that Kopana had chosen a bee to represent the journal, even if the name Solidago would be more reasonably heralded by a sheaf of goldenrod.  But the bee is perfect, perfecter.  I’ll tell you why.

So, I can’t think about bees without thinking about Paradise Lost, and all those devils in Pandemonium described as a “thick swarm’d” hive of bees.  Busy bees busy building hell.  A hive of sin!

Somewhere in the ruins of my college years, I (mis)remembered the bees as an allusion to the Medici, and had to look it up.  Turns out bees weren’t a Medici symbol at all but were part of the symbolism of a rival Italian family, the Barberini.   John Milton studied in Italy with the help of one Cardinal Barberini (later Pope Urban VIII), who shepherded him through Italy’s literary world.  Milton, a puritan who detested everything to do with the Pope, paid back Barberini’s generosity  by associating his family crest forever with Satan.  Now…that’s a sting.

And then I was back to high school, buzzing toward Emily Dickinson and her “drunken Bee,” tanked on the “molten hues” of summer.  I memorized that poem at 16? 17?  Then something about the Temperance movement, and was Dickinson having some fun with the teetotalers when she said she was tasting “a liquor never brewed”?  Her bee, doing its pollinating job, reminds me of a friend whose husband keeps bees and how much I like their honey and how farmers in the area are begging him to put bees on their property to help with fertility.

And there’s  the word I’d unconsciously been looking for–beyond the “hive” and the “busy-ness” and the “buzz”–fertility!  I love that Kopana picked a symbol of fertility for the journal–the kind of fertility that is vagrant, purposeful without linearity, nomadic without ever being far from home.  This journal, grounded in Lexington, Kentucky’s artistic community, seeks that kind of creative conversation with the rest of the world.


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