Sunday Poem – Sean Borrodale

I am writing this post IN PAIN!  I’ve walked all the way from Grange over Sands today to Ulverston with my sister, her hubby, her friend and my hubby.

My sister and her friend are walking the Cumbrian Coastal Way to raise money for Animal Concern in Workington – they both volunteer there.  So they  are walking 100 miles of the Coastal Way – I sponsored them and said they could stay at my house and I thought that was all I had agreed to do, but apparently in one of those conversations where my attention wanders, I agreed to walk some of it as well!

So today, we did 17.5 miles – 5 humans and 5 dogs.  I have two blisters, my legs feel like they will never bend again and in the last 3km a tractor came tearing down the country lane (ok, tearing may well be a bit of a liberty).  Anyway, it nearly took me out with the trailer it was dragging behind it and I had to dive into the verge, which was full of nettles.

Tomorrow they are walking from Ulverston to Barrow.  I don’t know if I’m going to do that leg or not – I’m going to see how I feel when I wake up!

So I’m struggling to write coherent sentences tonight, so I’m going to leave you with the Sunday Poem, which this week is by Sean Borodale, who I heard read at Grasmere last tuesday.  His first collection ‘Bee Journal’ is published by Cape and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.  I must admit, at first I bought it because I’d met Sean at a Poetry Review launch and he seemed like a really nice guy, rather than any interest in bees.  However, once I started reading it, he completely won me over into his world of bees and I challenge you not to be fascinated.

The poems are set out like diary entries as in each title has a date.  However they are beautifully paced and very musical, so not like diary entries at all.  Sean strikes me as being a poet on a quest – as in – I’m already looking forward to his next book, because I know he will be trying out something new and exciting, he seems to be constantly pushing the boundaries of poetry as an art form.

I chose this poem because I think it is so accurate in it’s descriptions of the queen bee – yet original as well.  In the reading, Sean said he wrote this after his bees had died, and thought it might be the last poem in the book.  I can tell you it is not the last poem in the book, but if you want to find out what happens at the end, you will have to buy the book which you can buy from Cape at

My favorite lines are ‘Those eyes are like castanets, cast nets;/woman all feral and ironwork”.  I think that close repitition of  castanets and cast nets is really beautiful and sure footed.  And the last line of the poem is wonderful as well.

Anyway, here is the poem – I will try and write later in the week when I can make more sense!

10th February: Queen – Sean Borodale

I keep the queen, she is long in my hand,
her legs slightly pliant;
folded, dropped down, wings flat
that flew her mating flight
to the sun and back, full of spermatozoa, dronesong.
She was made mechanically ecstatic.
I magnify what she is, magnify her skews and centres.
How downy she is, fur like a fox’s greyness, like a thistle’s mane.
Wings perfect, abdomen subtle in shades of brittle;
her rear legs are big in the lens:
feet like hung anchors are hooks for staying on cell-rims.
Veins in her wings are a rootwork of rivers,
all echo and interlace.  This is her face, compound eye.
I look at the slope of her head, the mouth’s proboscis;
her thin tongue piercing is pink as cut flesh, flash glass.
Some hairs feather and split below the head.
Those eyes are like castanets, cast nets;
woman all feral and ironwork, I slip
under the framework, into the subtle.
The wing is jointed at the black leather shoulder.
I wear it, I am soft to stroke, the lower blade fans.
Third generation queen of our stock,
you fall as I turn.  I hold your hunchback;
a carcase of lightness, no grief, part animal, part flower.
How downy

1 comment on “Sunday Poem – Sean Borrodale

  1. Dear Kim,

    Sounds like you and your feet had a long day! How did the doggies get along?

    A friend of mine gave me Sean’s book and it’s on my desk at work, where I keep admiring the cover. Tomorrow, I will open and start reading – because (after what you said) now I need to know how the story ends!! And after reading the Queen poem you chose, I’m hooked. The descriptions are beautiful, and the connections and the understandings and the continuities.. I used to keep bees, years ago. It’s a special thing.


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