The Bees of Dunblane and The Song of the Walnut Tree – Sally EvansThe book jacket is a light walnut colour, with caps for titles. The words THE BEES are bigger than OF DUNBLANE, and the bees are purple and Dunblane is black. The same formatting contrast is used in THE SONG and OF THE WALNUT TREE. There are no images, only the type.
diehard, at the Callander Press, 2016

The power of repetition

These are poems that feel ancient. They are even a bit uneven and clunky in certain lines, like the old ballads. But each long poem takes advantage of repetition, and a lovely sound quality with it. 

‘The Bees of Dunblane’ for example, is in the first person, and it’s the bees who are talking. The lines have a kind of cheerful buzz to them – partly because of repetition, but also alliteration and metre. The first stanza ends ‘There have always been bees in Dunblane’ and the next begins ‘We have always been bees in Dunblane. They’re pleasurable lines to roll in the mouth, gentle and busy and faintly teasing. It’s like rediscovering an ancient form – something timeless about it. The bees themselves draw attention to this:

So when summer smiles
and the beekeepers gather,
and the bees who are ancient
still speed through the rooftops,
remember the bees in Dunblane.

It’s real, too. Dunblane is as real as it ever was, and so are the bees. And the walnut trees who people the second long poem of the pamphlet have a repeating chorus that would make anybody want to visit them, and it’s educative too – I didn’t know the genus name was Juglans – what a lovely word:

Oh the walnut, walnut, juglans tree
the tree with food and shade
shape, stature and longevity –
plant you your walnut glade.

Wild bees love to settle near a walnut tree if they can find one,’ the poet tells us and the two poems go well together in this unassuming but attractive publication. I like it best where it rhymes best: rhyme is an ancient form of repetition, and a comfort in times of stress. Not many people can handle it well these days. Sally Evans can.

Helena Nelson

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