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Poet Katherine Stansfield Performs 'O Bees Of Rhode Island'

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Katherine Stansfield is an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in Magma magazine, the New Welsh Review and Poetry Wales. She also teaches creative writing at Aberystwyth University. Her novel, Silver and Salt, will be published next year by Parthian.

"O Bees of Rhode Island began as a fairly straight-forward praise poem for bees, but soon turned into something more anxious, as many of my poems do in relation to animals and insects.

"The speaker of the poem both respects the bees and is afraid of them. They don't want to be stung, obviously, and they don't want the bees to die in doing so, which I've always felt is a cruel irony for these creatures.

"I began writing poems when I was about 17 - really terrible, teenage angst-ridden poems. I took a bit of a break from 2007 to 2010, whilst I was writing a novel, but have returned to poetry more seriously in the last few years.

"My work tends to invest domestic space with surrealism and subversion, and explores anxiety between a sense of self and animals.

"I think the poetry scene in Britain today is really thriving, though we live in challenging times. There is less money going to the Arts than there was only a few years ago, which means that many organisations and small presses have fallen by the wayside. Those that remain are having to do more with less, which of course means less collections being published, less poets supported, less risks taken.

"But it also fosters initiative in publishing, which is always a good thing. It's an exciting time to be a poet, I feel."

O Bees of Rhode Island

you're bolshie in morning hover, smug humming
zip tours of roses, those puckered up girls
while the pool's unblinking eye gives back
your stateliness, your striped I'm-great-liness.
Hop a jig along, stop -
take the measure of after-margherita me
bare-legged, still drunk in the gazebo.
Why must you kamikaze for accidental grazes
and sheer not-knowing swats?
Why must you threaten me
with your terrible kiss? Know this:
when I am savaged by Maine flies
and ants swoon in the sweet relish,
I'll praise you and your raffish pride.
Behold my obeisance, o bees of Rhode Island.
You are all propulsion, miracle,
and the goodness of the day.

O Bees of Rhode Island first appeared in issue 53 of Magma Poetry magazine.