Carol Potter

Paper $15.95
(ISBN 978-0932440-48-7)

Order Now

Winner of the 2014 FIELD Poetry Prize

Carol Potter's four previous books have earned many admirers and multiple awards. But the scope and depth of Some Slow Bees, winner of the 2014 FIELD Poetry Prize, will be a revelation even to her most devoted fans.

Potter's new collection is a book about trouble, about loss: relationships, farms, parents, places. But there's also humor, a wry look at the way we invite or stumble into trouble and how we embrace the adventure. From children at their desks watching the flood leak into the schoolroom, to the narrator and her lover paddling down a river in the dark, the book charts a journey from loss to repair. It ends with a sonnet sequence, "The Miss Nancy Papers," that leads us from the psychological terrain of the 1950s into the present, where "if anyone knew what war we were coming home from / we would come home from it." This is a book about how to get lost, and how to get home.

"Tightly woven yet seemingly off-the-cuff, the 'Miss Nancy' sonnets that close this book are quietly monumental. Like the rest of Some Slow Bees, they blend personal memory with cultural history, provoking both ache and laughter. In her tsunami-sized drive toward 'the act of knowing,' Potter alternates between bullet-like declaratives, loopy wandering, and mad headlong propulsion; the reader senses anything at all might turn up and be transformed."
Ellen Doré Watson

"In Some Slow Bees Carol Potter inhabits and investigates the spaces between overlapping images—a flooded school and the school full of children, for example—and an essayistic, logical way of proceeding, where assertions are questioned and possibilities are turned over to reveal, finally, the signs by which we know ourselves. It easily and seamlessly moves from the deepest of memories and poetic gestures to assertions such as 'too much metaphor in your life might mean you need / to be talking about something but you'd rather not.' It works beautifully, and finds things not found any other way. I love this book."
John Gallaher

"With what verve and formal acuity Carol Potter puts us right in the welter of the world. Her tales in Some Slow Bees are told with such speed everything unnecessary falls away and what's left is pure honey—with the sting of revelation. The language is exuberant and exacting at once, like a scalpel sprouting feathers. Desirous and wary of love, skeptical of 'the grail that any one story grows to be,' these are poems of self-reckoning, and Potter makes a fine music for us all out of what we 'didn’t do..., couldn’t keep..., walked away from.' 'Don’t sit down just because you're invited,' one poem cautions. But Reader, do—do sit down and feast on these fine, wry and wonderful poems."
Betsy Sholl




We were happy in the attic, nothing onerous
about what we were doing. There was a bed
that needed to be made, and a turban grandfather
had brought back from his job in the middle east.
We wore the turban, and wrapped some kind of
sashes around our waists because we were
tomboys. We were extraterrestrials. We were
tanned hardy men. We made a pact to not be girls.
To save ourselves. If there had been some kind
of serum perhaps. If we could have been
deported from the country we found ourselves
in. That was the plan. Sailors smoking opium on deck,
wassailing everybody straight out of port,
dolphins leaping across the bow. No lawns. No
piglets. No possums. No boobs. No busybodies.
We did not have the sense there was anything irregular about this. 
We were the sons. We were rude and
fancied ourselves renegades, teasing the meek.
I was an ace at it. A comma between
my legs and egress everywhere I looked.
In Home Ec., I flattened cakes on purpose.
Banged pots. Ripped seams. Back when
you had to take that course if you were a girl.
If you had what I had. Irrelevant what I wrought
in that class. I let spools of thread out windows.
I tossed eggs out onto the roof.
You could see them there for a long time,
the spent shells, the smoking yolks.
All accolades were belated.



In truth I don't understand the etiquette of tattoos.
What I'm supposed to do around them. Study them
or pretend I don’t see? Like love bites. The way
we don’t stare at a stranger's hickey. The way we
wouldn’t think to mention it. To study someone's
skin like that. The nurse in the office last week
with a story on each arm, something drawn elbow
to wrist but in a glance I had no idea what it was.
He took my blood pressure. Asked me questions
about my mood. My mother's failing heart. My job.
Something you can see in the bed with someone.
Skin to skin. Reaching behind a student yesterday,
her shoulders exposed though it's January,
I saw she had words written on her upper back,
several lines of script shoulder to shoulder, and
a little splash of some kind of drawing, but I
pretended I hadn't seen anything. Not appropriate
to study a young woman's exposed flesh. The
stud in her tongue flashing at me each time she said
the word stuck. She was stuck on some problem
she'd been having in English. The stud like something
bobbing in the ocean. You're not sure you see it, then
you do. Then you don't. The places we aren't
supposed to look. Trained as we are to avert
the eyes. As if only for the lover turning
the naked body in his or her arms to study the
colors. The writing and drawing. Not to be salacious.
Caught staring. What's the protocol? Public or private?
The intimacy of the writing there. Those pretty
pictures on the calf. The bicep. Top of the ass.
There's a promise. You could read the person
if you could only take the person into your arms.
You could study the script on her, the pictures.
Like reading any code. The way we look into a lover's eyes
as if to see the story there at the back of the pupil
talking to us. The way we put our mouth
on the lover's mouth as if to breathe in what
the person has inside there so you could know.
It is the act of knowing. It is the Adam and Eve
of it. The apple on the tree. The promise
that somehow we could start naming what this is.
What we do together here.


Copyright © 2015 by Carol Potter. May not be reproduced without permission.

50 N. Professor Street, Oberlin, OH 44074-1095 | Tel 440.775.8408 | Fax 440.775.8124 | Email
Copyright © Oberlin College Press 2006 | Design by Brandon Ramos