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Articles & Reviews

The Bees of the Invisible

poems by Wally Swist

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A collection of the Wally Swist's most mystical work, The Bees of the Invisible regards nature, spirit, and an array of personal memories—recollections from an elder's point of view. From the first poem in the book,—“A Wild Beauty,” describing heirloom roses—to the last—“Ley Lines,” a commemoration of a longstanding relationship where the poet finds "grace in laying down a memory"—this collection is one of celebration and praise. Also, reflecting the poet's lifelong admiration of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, there are adaptations of several of Rilke's poems not necessarily well-known to many readers, as well as adaptations of work by Georg Trakl, Tu Fu, and others. Most ostensible of these adaptations are Rilke's Das Marienleben, a thirteen-poem sequence dedicated to the Virgin Mary originally written in 1900.

The Bees of the Invisible is the third book of a poetic trilogy published in recent years by Shanti Arts—the others being Canding the Eggs (2016) and The Map of Eternity (2018). Together these books represent Swist's most mature and accomplished work, and by far his most mystical writing.

POETRY / General
ISBN: 978-1-947067-89-9 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2019940592

Released August 2019; Copyright 2019

138 pages 


Wally Swist is the author of some three dozen books and chapbooks of poetry and prose. Among his books are The Daodejing: A New Interpretation, with co-authors, David Breeden and Steven Schroeder (Beaumont, TX: Lamar University Press, 2015). His book Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love was selected co-winner of the 2011 Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Contest, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa served as judge, and the book was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2012. The book was nominated by Southern Illinois University Press for a National Book Award.

Swist has also published two previous books of poetry with Shanti Arts, of Brusnwick, Maine: Candling the Eggs (2016) and The Map of Eternity (2018). His books of nonfiction include Singing for Nothing: Selected Nonfiction as Literary Memoir (Brooklyn, NY: The Operating System, 2018) and On Beauty: Essays, Reviews, Fiction, and Plays (New York & Lisbon: Adelaide Books, 2018).

Swist is a recipient of Artist’s Fellowships in poetry from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts (1977 and 2003). He was also awarded a one-year writing residency (1998) and two back-to-back one-year writing residencies (2003–2005) at his former mentor’s home, Fort Juniper, the Robert Francis Homestead, in the Cushman Village section of Amherst, Massachusetts. Swist’s work has appeared in such national periodicals such as Commonweal, The North American Review, Rattle, Rolling Stone, Yankee Magazine, and Your Impossible Voice. He currently makes his home in western Massachusetts, where he is semi-retired and works as a freelance editor and writer.



“These are poems that offer themselves as gestures of praise, the sort that comes from a sustained and spacious gaze—on the world of insects and animals, on moments both bitter and sublime and the anguish and hope they engender, on the stubborn experience of loss that shadows the findings in our lives. Here, one finds voicings of Rilke as luminous and layered as the originals, seductive and secretive all at once, alongside poems that have grown over the long years where memory and forgetting do their peculiar dance. Here, too, the distinction between poems and prayers seems unneeded, indeed unwanted, and the poet’s voice one encounters over this spread of art is as energetic and alluring as those “bees of the invisible” that “mak[e] things whole”—precisely by being utterly themselves. And, when all is said and done, this is a high aim and one well within the reach of Wally Swist, as this collection once again shows. One can only greet this gathering of sparkling poetic gems with gladness and gratitude, and, yes, with an echoing praise.”
Mark S. Burrows, author most recently of The Chance of Home (2018) and, with Jon M. Sweeney, Meister Eckhart’s Book of Secrets: Meditations on Letting Go and Finding True Freedom (2019).

"Love, nature, angels, age—these poems illuminate the important but very subtle issues that give life just the right modest weight it requires. I read them as teaching poems, teaching how to notice signals of meaning before they slip past. I will give these poems to friends who are always looking for a true insight and a worthy observation. Nothing is more satisfying than a poet who can not only work musically and meaningfully with words. . . . Wally Swist's poems will thrill you with their originality and potency.”
Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul

“In all of his splendid work, over the course of many years, Wally Swist has demonstrated a remarkable ability to use meticulously crafted metonymic details to divine and to define life’s principal questions and to reveal them in the graceful arcs of beauty that he finds among the very smallest things of the landscapes he explores and the vistas of the ever-widening horizons that encompass them. The simple becomes the universal in his poems. This collection affirms these essential things. The poems in these pages are deeply imagined and wonderfully crafted “divine cadences” that enable us all to walk together through a world that is both magical and simple, metaphorically rich and yet immediate and tangible and real. This book is a hallmark of a major American poetic voice at its fullest and very finest.
Jonas Zdanys, poet in residence, Sacred Heart University

Articles and Reviews

Laura Reece Hogan, “A Review of The Bees of the Invisible”, Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, Spring 2021
In a letter to his Polish translator, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again ‘invisibly,’ inside us.  We are the bees of the invisible.  We wildly collect the honey of the invisible.”  Wally Swist has taken on this task in the poems collected in The Bees of the Invisible, which seek to both name the world and transmute it. 

Songs of Intense Listening: A Review by Michael Centore, Today's American Catholic, January/February, 2020

Review by Steve Pfarrer, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 9-5-2019


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