One Clover & A Bee: Belle of Amherst

The Bee of Amherst

Emily Dickinson is one of our best-known poets, and many of us can probably conjure up a few of her most quoted lines. But while we know she’s important, I’m willing to bet that most of us also find her poems somewhat difficult. They’re so compact, so very personal, full of references that are difficult to grasp from our modern perspective.

As a result, when we’re first introduced to her work, sometimes the poems that are selected—because they seem more accessible—are also kind of…greeting card sweet (Please, no hate mail!). This is a shame, because when we take the time to read more of Dickinson’s work, we find an incredibly inventive, smart and passionate poet. She can even be quite funny. Hey, I named this column after her—so you know I’m a fan.

Therefore, on behalf of the Belle of Amherst, I offer a poem of hers that I think is a winner for families on all counts: it’s very accessible, but not at the expense of smart. It’s fun to say out loud, and not as twisty in its rhythms as some of her work. It is sweet, but not syrupy—more like refreshing, ice-cold, home-made lemonade on a hot summer day…

Bee!  I’m Expecting You!

Bee!  I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due —

The Frogs got Home last Week —
Are settled, and at work —
Birds, mostly back —
The Clover warm and thick —

You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me —
Yours, Fly.

–Emily Dickinson

Many of Dickinson’s trademarks are here: the ever present mix of straight rhymes and slant rhymes (I talked about these in my last post), and the seemingly random capitalization. Both of these strategies, however, have lots of intention behind them: read closely and you’ll find they do some interesting things to sound and meaning.

Lastly, there’s those dashes, which make us feel like we’re buzzing through the poem along with the poet, stopping now and then to take in all the deliciousness of summer.

The next time you’re outside, enjoy this poem with your kids—you can even try a poetry game of writing letters to your favorite summer creatures.  And don’t forget a visit to Emily’s house in Amherst! If you decide to go (or even if you don’t), there’s a wonderful picture book by Michael Bedard and Barbara Cooney that will give your kids a rich introduction to the poet known as “The Myth.”


Amy Dryansky

Amy’s the mother of two children who seem to enjoy poetry, for which she’s extremely grateful. Her first book, How I Got Lost So Close To Home, was published by Alice James Books and poems have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals. She’s a former Associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center at Mt. Holyoke College, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on the work of women poets. In addition to her life as a poet, Dryansky works for a land trust, teaches in at Hampshire College, leads workshops in the community and writes about what it’s like to navigate the territory of mother/poet/worker at her blog, Pokey Mama. Her second book, Grass Whistle, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2013.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Kicki Holmén]

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