Eleanor Rand Wilner’s The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (2004)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 4/5, which was published circa early 2005.


Eleanor Rand Wilner – The Girl with Bees in Her HairWhat brought me to this book initially was I had heard Wilner is one of the few poets, & oh, how I wish there were more, who incorporate science into poems. I was not disappointed. The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (Copper Canyon Press, 2004) opens with a terrifically beautiful poem “Everything is Starting,” & the following sections & poems sustain the magnificence. Here are some of the lines from “Everything is Starting” that stirred me so much:

                   light-years away, beyond the veils
   of the Milky Way, out at the red edge
   of creation, where everything is
   always starting: [. . .
   . . .
   . . .] when all that is the matter,
   or all that matter is, is drawn into
   one place, as if into a single thought,
   and (unimaginable) ignites,
   shattering the ageless night in which
   the cosmos only dreamed,
   and in the oldest memory
                                         (of which I think
   we have a share)
   it was an endlessly unfolding flower
   of fire – the rose of light that Dante
   saw, its afterimage in the soul.
   And from that flower, the seeds
   of all the galaxies were
   sown. . .
               now, in our own, the snow recedes,
   the buds will shatter the end
   of every twig – as everything is
   starting up again –
                                  (ll 31-34, 37-55)

And there are other poems with science.

After reading this book, I met another poet who said: “Wilner may be one of our greatest poets of myth, perhaps the best since Yeats.” I don’t know if this is true, as I can think of many worthy poets of myth, but in this collection we do find poems of myth, including “What Narcissus Gave the Lake,” which inventively turns the Narcissus myth upside-down, for “The lake sees through Narcissus” & the lake discovers “what multitudes it can contain.” Narcissus gave “to the lake, in the contemplation of / that beautiful and beauty-blinded face.”

Overall, The Girl with Bees in Her Hair, with its 5 sections, is filled with smooth, flowing narratives with brief moments of lyrical epiphanies (either direct or indirect), curious revisionings of myth, a strong displeasure for war, & much beauty – real, stunning, interrupted, uncontrived beauty.//




Wilner, Eleanor Rand. The Girl with Bees in Her Hair. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2004.//

1 Response to “Eleanor Rand Wilner’s The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (2004)”

  1. 1 Lea
    December 24, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Looking forward to it!

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