Some of the poems in Poets’ Guide to America cover a lot of ground, both geographically and thematically. Others, like “Bee Lust in Manhattan,” are more focused, smaller in scope, more like vignettes.
“Bee Lust in Manhattan” concerns a swarm of ambiguously-aroused bees that have trapped a crowd of people inside a Manhattan deli. The poem outlines various people’s different responses to their common predicament. Like “Chiron in Los Angeles,” it is shorter than many of the works in the collection. Unlike “Chiron,” its images cohere more fully into a unified narrative.
After John and Martin finished “Chiron in Los Angeles” within two days, the latter writer immediately began”Bee Lust in Manhattan,” commenting “Second poem with a city in the title….” Martin would go on to envision an entire chapbook of “pseudogeography poems,” considerably extending John’s initial goal of a single collaboratively-written piece. The ball had started rolling, and quickly: John and Martin finished the entire second poem within twenty-four hours, on May 25, 2009, with the exception of a few minor edits.
Martin’s wife, Michele Carroll, offered her approval of the poem: Martin comments in an email, “Michele read and thought we should submit it (she thought it was quite good)….thinks we could keep writing about places…” Michele’s encouragement helped provide the impetus for getting John and Martin’s work out of the cupboard and into the world, for the two quickly wrote several more poems, enough to make up a complete batch to send to journals. And on September 11, 2009, the Bryant Literary Review agreed to publish “Bee Lust in Manhattan,” the duo’s first joint acceptance.
“Bee Lust in Manhattan” is the seventh poem in the final sequence of Poets’ Guide to America.