…Today, guess what, we became beekeepers! We went to the local meeting last week (attended by the rector, the midwife,
…Today, guess what, we became beekeepers! We went to the local meeting last week (attended by the rector, the midwife, and assorted beekeeping people from neighboring villages) to watch a Mr Pollard make three hives out of one (by transferring his queen cells) under the supervision of the official Government bee-man. We all wore masks and it was thrilling. It is expensive to start beekeeping (over $50 outlay), but Mr Pollard let us have an old hive for nothing, which we painted white and green, and today he brought over the swarm of docile Italian hybrid bees we ordered and installed them. We placed the hive in a sheltered out-of-the-way spot in the orchard the bees were furious from being in a box. Ted had only put a handkerchief over his head where the hat should go in the bee-mask, and the bees crawled into his hair, and he flew off with half-a-dozen stings. I didn’t get stung at all, and when I went back to the hive later, I was delighted to see bees entering with pollen sacs full and leaving with them empty at least I think that’s what they were doing. I feel very ignorant but shall try to read up and learn all I can. If we’re lucky, we’ll have our own honey, too!
From Letters Home, 15 June 1962
When Sylvia Plath died on 11 February 1963 she left a black spring binder on her desk containing a manuscript of forty poems with the title Ariel.* The final five poems are a sequence about bees: The Bee Meeting, The Arrival of the Bee Box, Stings, Swarm and Wintering. In this powerful sequence Plath purposefully changes her poetic tone as she uses the natural metaphor of bees to explore issues of female self-assertion, rites of death and rebirth, creativity and survival. She also writes with loving precision about the details of beekeeping and the bees themselves. The final poem, Wintering, is a tour de force evoking cold and despair but, ultimately, hope for the coming spring.
Over the course of two hours we will study Wintering in depth, look at its form and construction and, through repeated readings, unlock the secrets of this acclaimed poem.
*This is not the version of Ariel published in 1965, which has four of the bee poems in the middle of the book, but Faber did publish Ariel the Restored Edition in 2004, with a foreword by Frieda Hughes.
- Facilitated by: Caroline Hammond
- Wednesday Evening: 6–8.00pm
- Single meeting study: Wednesday 12 May 2021
- £25 includes background materials and opening notes
TO REGISTER for the study, please use the secure Paypal payment button below to pay £25. Contact us if you prefer to pay by direct bank transfer. Opening notes will be sent shortly after registration. The study is limited to 10 participants. Please contact us if you have any questions.