Images of hives, feathers, and locusts wind their way through The Children, Paula Bohince’s new poetry collection, which includes “Gypsy Moths, or Beloved,” a poem that appeared in the September/October 2008 issue of Orion. We asked Bohince to describe the images—some of which come from memory, others of which are more mysterious and ethereal—that inspired her latest collection.
The world as perceived by children, the bewildering adult kingdom, transformations through art, the isolation of art-making, power and powerlessness, innocence and experience: these are all subjects examined in The Children.
A poem in the collection, “The Hive,” was born from a photograph of a lynched man and the crowd in the background. Two strange-looking blonde children—hair so blonde it appears silver—are in the foreground, scowling and pointing toward the lynched figure. The image of these children, their mimicking gesture, their engagement with the horror, compelled me. In the poem, the scene yields to metaphor—the lynched man becomes a hive—and the children make their appearance only at the poem’s end.
The image of the hive returns in another poem, “Hornets’ Nest,” in which the speaking I co-opts an abandoned hive for a table centerpiece. The poem probes ideas of ownership—the making and the taking—and how that might serve as evidence of existence.
In structuring the book, I’ve tried to create a “bracelet” effect, where images and themes link and recur. Indeed, two poems at the book’s center use a bracelet as their defining image. In “Green River Fugue,” a poem that is concerned with the serial killing of women that occurred near the Green River, a bracelet’s initial, as from a charm bracelet, hauled from the river, might serve as evidence of a particular woman’s death.
The very next poem, “The Bracelet,” has a speaker lying in bed, thinking of daffodils rising like debutantes from canopies and asks, “Who am I to speak for anything?” What is homage and what is exploitation? In this poem, the “I” is wearing a beloved bracelet, is lounging, will-less, defeated, but still has authorial privilege.
Hives and bracelets, and elsewhere locusts, feathers, and other images help form the bracelet of The Children. When I think of a bracelet, it seems both pure ornament and solitary handcuff. I hope that the poems in this collection likewise reflect beauty and terror.
Paula Bohince grew up in rural Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Yale Review, and other publications. She is the 2012 Dartmouth Poet in Residence at The Frost Place.