Somehow it seems we have invested all of our hope and despair for the future of our world into honeybees. Their decline has come to reflect back at us all the wrong we do in the environment. And if we can make them healthy again, well, maybe that means the Earth is on the mend, too.

All of that shines through in a small anthology of poetry, “If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems,” dedicated to Marla Spivak, the University of Minnesota’s famous bee researcher, who also wrote the afterword. (The foreword is by Bill McKibben.) A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Spivak’s lab.

James Lenfestey, editor of the anthology, says in his introduction that Spivak works on the science of saving bees. The poetry, however, reflects our long fascination and affection for those domesticated insects that connect us profoundly to the natural world.

The authors range from the venerable: Emily Dickinson, whose poem provided the title (“To Make a Prairie, It Takes a Clover and One Bee”), Robert Bly, William Stafford, Jane Hirshfield, Pablo Neruda and more — to the local: Lenfestey, Heid E. Erdrich, Thomas R. Smith, Su Smallen, Tom Hennen and many others.

It’s a pleasure to flip through the pages, like a bee flitting from flower to flower.

As one of the poets, Jeanie Tomasko, writes: “but I like to think her stroll/on those upturned yellow faces/is more for the joy of making me wonder/what I know of happiness.”

 Josephine Marcotty is an environmental reporter and the author of a Star Tribune special project, “Bees at the Brink.” See it at

If Bees Are Few
Edited by:
James Lenfestey.
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press, 225 pages, $24.95.
Events: Book launch, with poets Heid E. Erdrich, Jim Heynen, Thomas R. Smith, Joyce Sutphen and others, 6:30 p.m. June 2, Cargill Building auditorium, University of Minnesota, 1500 Gortner Av., St. Paul; reading, 7 p.m. June 9, SubText Books, 6 W. 5th St., St. Paul.