In honor of Chico's California Nut Festival, held in February, Lyon Books of Chico sponsored a poetry contest. Owner-manager Heather Lyon writes that "participants were asked to submit poems that 'relate to nuts, other local crops, or bees or other pollinators.' Adult and child poets submitted poems." Lyon tells me she was so pleased with the submissions she decided to publish them all in "Sustenance: Poems By Chico Poets In Celebration of the California Nut Festival" ($7 in paperback from www.lyonbooks.com).
It's a lot of fun. The 31 submissions are divided into "thoughtful poems" and "humorous poems," with three entries by young people (Jane Hogan, Robbie Barber, and Madeline Chinchay). Lyon notes that "Jeanne E. Clark, creative writing faculty at Chico State University has four poems included in the volume. Judge Beth Spencer of Bear Star Press chose Clark’s poem 'Almonds' as a notable work." Previously published poets are represented, including Audrey C. Small, Joy Harold Helsing and Patricia Wellingham-Jones, but many of the submissions are from newly-published writers.
The poems can only be sampled with a few short excerpts. Clark, in "Almonds," writes of "Flatbed trucks stacked five high with white wooden boxes. These hives. // Sleepy bees, suspended in smoke, careen in the orchard." Judith Ellen Anderson has "Bees Under the Kitchen Window": "Next I called the honey people, making a lovely offer. / Lively swarm of bees: Free for the taking. / But no one answered - and no one took the free bees. // So now we've made our peace. . . . "
Helsing notes that the "Bees Are Disappearing": "I think / some bees found their way / into a different dimension, / a parallel universe / they like better, / and the buzz is spreading."
Reed McGuffy, another of the prize winners, tells the tale of "The Tree & Bee & What It Means for You & Me." The tree invites the bee; and the bee buzzes in reply: "Yer zzent iz juzz delizzuzz / An' yer blozomzz zo divine / I thinz I like yer offer, / I thinz I like't fine! // And so the two had Congress, / The Tree and tiny Bee, / And from that merry union / Come Nuts for you and me."