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I went to my first Dead Poets Society meet last night hosted by Dymocks to hear Alison Flett talk about Carol Ann Duffy.

Held each month, local poets pay tribute to infamous ones, originally those deceased although clearly they bend the rules every so often to capture the brilliance we still have. Being Scottish in common as well as amazing poets, Alison spoke about Duffy’s life and loves; how she fell into poetry at sixteen by meeting Adrian Henri, one of the Liverpool poets, after whom she wrote ‘Little Red Cap’ which Alison read, a clever poem relating Duffy’s journey into adulthood with Henri as the wolf.

This poem was from Duffy’s The World’s Wife, an ingenious collection from the perspective of the women behind famous men, from which Alison also shared ‘Frau Freud’, a witty piece reflecting on the male member.

Alison also read ‘Hive’ from Duffy’s latest collection The Bees published in 2011 along with ‘Premonitions’, a poem about Duffy’s mother whose death caused a hiatus in Duffy’s writing for about 10 years.

Alison finished by sharing some of her own beautiful poetry, including one of my favourites ‘Vessel’, the title poem from her chapbook in the Southern Land Poets series by Garron Publishing.

The talk was followed by a raffle and an open mic session, where readers share a favourite poem by the tribute poet and one of their own inspired by them. It felt good to be reacquainted with Duffy’s powerful and emotive work; it’s clear to see why she’s the current UK Poet Laureate.

Next month is D H Lawrence, whose novels I’m more familiar with than his poetry, so I may just mosey on along to that one too.

Now it’s not often I write reviews about books without poems, but felt I had to share the one I’ve just finished – The Bees by Laline Paull.

2016-01-15 16.45.04

Originally published by Fourth Estate in 2014, it explores the intricate workings of a society of bees, their queen, the hive and the laws to obey dependent on where you are in the hive’s hierarchy. The protagonist is Flora 717, a sanitation worker, the lowest of the low and to make matters worse, she presents to us as ‘obscenely ugly’ and ‘excessively large’, an abnormality of her kin-sisters. But due to her strength, endurance and ability to forage the most sought after nectar, she is respected and given special dispensation until, that is, she breaks the most sacred of laws. And that’s where I’ll stop in case you want to find out.

I particularly enjoyed learning about what happens in a hive; how bees operate and are deeply affected by seasons; their interactions with wasps referred to as the ‘lesser cousins’ (although this also sums up how the wasps view the bees!); the descriptions of flowers and the anatomy of a bee; the way foraging is ‘danced’ to enable others to follow their flight path; the power of the hive and the queen’s love; it is all simply riveting and pulls you in.

I highly recommend this book; it’s a fascinating sociological read, makes me value the honeybee all the more.

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