‘Bee’ Reviewed: Blind Huber

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Nyx is an avid reader of poetry when she allows herself a day off from her quest to capture the laser pointer.

Every week a science book, play, article, etc. will ‘bee’ reviewed (I admit, as an entomologist, that I may use a few too many insect puns). This week’s selection is appropriately themed for the first ‘Bee Reviewed’ post ever – a book of poetry entitled Blind Huber by Nick Flynn.

I originally reviewed this book as part of NaRMo – National Reviewing Month, which occurs in February and is run by my undergraduate institution.

Blind Huber is a poetic masterpiece that brings to life the distinct harmony of Huber, a blind, elderly French beekeeper from a different century, and swarms of honeybees. There is an absolute obsession written into this collection of poems, as Huber observes and speaks with the bees; through him, Flynn comments on the fierceness that underpins all of life. Flynn gives us bees that meditate on love, devotion, knowledge, individuality v. uniformity and more; bees that drink deep of the natural world and show us both the pleasure and the pain of life’s commanding beauty. Huber, while the title character, often takes a backseat to the bees in this collection and yet his story is so inextricably tied to that of the hive that even when he is not in the poem, he is present. The collection is thought-provoking and, at times, depressing as it ruminates on the distorted pallor of death as seen through the eyes of various hive-mates; this book is, in a very visceral way, also about how we see what we see. Huber was a deliberate choice for the beekeeper; while being a pioneer in hive observations, his blindness has a significant impact on his relationship with and trust of the bees and lends itself to seeing all of the collection’s various meditations through a different lens than the societal norm.

While a love of bees is certainly a positive thing to bring to this collection, a reader does not need any biological understanding of eusocial insects to enjoy the sweetness of this collection which is remarkably accurate while still remaining powerful and emotive. I enjoyed the poems “Paper Wasp” and “Worker (lost)” in particular. “Paper Wasp” was first published in the New England Review in 2002, and contains the lines:

“All this time/we’ve been building beside you…fragments of your barn, paint/chewed to pulp. Everything/passes through us, transformed.”

“Worker (lost)” was first published by Tin House and contains the following lines:

“the hive full of strangers,/none remained precisely me, none/ I would die for.”

Flynn covers reproduction, haplodiploidy, royal jelly, and more but in such a magnificent way I am sure that both entomologists and literary citizens with no ‘bug background’ to speak of could enjoy this delightful collection.

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Geek and Sundry – Hard Science Book Contest

For those of you who don’t know, Geek and Sundry is a commercial YouTube channel and multimedia production company – on their channel, they nerd out over comics, LARPs, RPGs, weaponry in fantasy games, romance novels, comedy, and much, much more. Felicia Day (you probably know her from her role in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog) and Wil Wheaton (you probably know him from Star Trek: The Next Generation) are prominent players so you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

As an amazing science-writing collaboration, Inkshares and Geek and Sundry have teamed up to do a publishing contest for books in the genre of hard science fiction. You can check out the video below for more information or to vote on your favorite contestants. The contest is open until May 16th, 2016 – plenty of time for you to submit your amazing ideas and get backers!

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This blog and me

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Photo credit: Keith Trammel Photography

About the Blog:

It seems that our society is growing more dependent on science even as we grow increasingly distrustful of the news media that are generally reporting the latest scientific advances. I can’t blame us – often the headlines we are fed make it seem like cancer is cured, all bees are going extinct, and the zombie virus is knocking on our doors. How do we communicate the small steps that make up real scientific progress accurately, but still engage our readers?

That’s my goal here; to communicate the beauty of science through poetry, plays, articles, and more. I want to make the boundary between the fields of STEM and creative writing more porous. I want to discuss the important ethical questions of science and writing, too. What is literary citizenship? Does the end justify the means? What is the line between fiction and nonfiction, and when is it appropriate to use one or the other? Are our scientific discoveries neutral? What is the moral responsibility of the scientist, and the writer, to society?

There’s a lot to unpack here. On this blog I’ll be writing about scientific advancements, literary citizenship, the writing process, other written works, and perhaps a few odds and ends like gaming and gin and cats. Who doesn’t love cats?

About the Writer:12573946_1212730845408300_2641606434461195680_n

I am currently earning my PhD in Biology at Drexel University in Philadelphia – I’ll be at that for a long while. I earned my B.S. in Biology and English/Creative Writing from the State University of New York at Geneseo, where I was a member of the Honors College. At Geneseo, I was a founding member of NeuWrite/Edu, the first undergraduate chapter of the international science-writing collaboration group. I was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 2015, my junior year, and served as a writing intern for their online news site, The Key Reporter in the spring of 2016. I wrote for my school newspaper, The Lamron, serving as an assistant editor from 2012-2013.

I’ve completed three ecology studies so far while in undergrad. The first is my honors capstone in Biology: Effects of the Emerald Ash Borer on Nations Road Research Reserve; the other two are directed study research projects: Native Bee Diversity and 12990940_1281985721816145_1685345968374993656_nAbundance at SUNY Geneseo and Determination of Colony Structure in Formica pergandei using Microsatellite Markers to Estimate Worker Relatedness. I have presented my research at regional and local conferences. I look forward to getting to do more research as I earn my PhD! I’ve also had the opportunity to teach undergraduate biology majors lab for three semesters, serve as the assistant instructor for a semester, and as a supplemental instructor for the freshman biology majors lecture for a semester. I can’t wait to keep teaching in my PhD program!

Lastly, I am an alumni member of Alpha Delta Epsilon regional sorority. I served as President, Vice President, Treasurer, New Member Educator, and Service Chair while an active member from Spring 2013 – Spring 2016. I owe so much to this group of my peers, who pushed me to be my best (and weirdest) self and consistently supported me in my writing and my research.

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