Anna Jackson

Bees, So Many Bees by Anna Jackson

Bees, So Many Bees by Anna Jackson is a commentary on a failing marriage. She feels lost in her relationship, finding herself ‘out of place’ as she grapples with metaphors to navigate her marriage.

Bees, So Many Bees by Anna Jackson


Summary of Bees, So Many Bees

Bees, So Many Bees by Anna Jackson uses the extended metaphor of a journey through a dirty, bee infested, pond as a representation of getting out of a failed marriage. Although difficult, uncomfortable and perhaps dangerous, Jackson pursues happiness instead of staying in the dirty water.


Structure of Bees, So Many Bees

Anna Jackson’s Bees, So Many Bees is divided into 19 lines in one large stanza. The single stanza could be a representation of the one relationship Jackson has been in these ’twenty years’, the continual form reflecting the monotonous marriage.

You can read the full poem here.


Poetic Techniques

Jackson uses metaphor throughout the poem to describe her marriage. She uses the idea of a dirty ‘pond’ to represent her relationship, the swimming she and her partner are doing insinuating the idea of keeping the marriage afloat. She finally decides to leave the water, suggesting the breaking of her marriage as she aims to escape the ‘pond’.

Moreover, the use of ‘bees’ conveys the blocks that stop her from leaving the marriage. There are ‘so many bees’, indeed so many things that hold her back. Yet, the poet understands that she cannot stay in this ‘cold’ place forever, she must get out and strive for a happier life.


Bees, So Many Bees Analysis

Lines 1-4

After twenty years of marriage, we walked out
we might be able to get to.

Bees, So Many Bees begins by focusing on a state of ‘After’. The poem skips the first ‘twenty years of marriage’, settling at this moment where something has changed. As the pome continues, we can assume that Jackson is characterizing this ‘After’ as the moment in which she decides to ‘get out’ of her marriage, finally finding the strength to leave her partner. The fact that these twenty years are never talked about in reality, only through a layered metaphor shows that perhaps it was not the happiest marriage.

The caesura within the first line further separates these 20 years from the rest of the poem, it is intentionally grammatically isolated from the rest of the lines. This is followed by enjambment until line 4, emphasizing the harshness of the metrical break in the first line.

The idea that the couple ‘walked out’ primarily demonstrates their narrative moment within the poem, going on a walk to the lake. Moreover, ‘walked out’ could be associated with the idea of walking out on someone, the concept of the marriage coming to its end being punctuated in this comment.

They move on to ‘rough dirt road’, the roughness of the ‘road’ signifying the disruption in their relationship, they have come out of normality and are finally seeing the faults within their marriage.


Lines 5-9

The ground was boggy and buzzing.
swim in, but we did — picking and sliding

These lines within Bees, So Many Bees describes the ‘pond’ they encounter and swim in. It is ‘thick with weed / and slime’, the repulsive nature of the pond not stopping the couple from deciding to enter the water. Jackson even acknowledges that ‘it was not the sort of pond anyone would swim in’, the physical condition of the infested water being disgusting to see.

The condition of the pond being ‘thick’ connotes a certain grotesqueness to the water. Especially in poetry that describes nature, water is often free-flowing, pure blue, and beautiful. Here, the water is directly the opposite, ‘thick’, murky, and stagnant.

The hyphen after ‘we did—‘ could imply the moment in which they enter the pond. It is emphasized as a moment, the poet pausing as she adjusts to the cold water of the swamp.


Lines 10-13

into the water over the bog and bees,
bees we suddenly noticed were
everywhere, were settling on our hair
as we swam, ducks turning surprised eyes
our way. After twenty years of marriage

The alliteration of ‘bog and bees’ emphasizes the two words. At the same time, the poet becomes aware of the ‘bees’ from this device, while also reiterating the grotesque nature of the water they have entered. If we understand the ‘pond’ as a metaphorical representation of their relationship, the connotations of water take on a further symbolism, with the poet metaphorically beginning to drown in the murky ‘bog’.

The verb of ‘settling’ is perhaps intentionally used to draw reference to the concept of ‘Settling’ for someone. This is when you stay with someone even though you know you could do better, for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps Jackson is implying that her own relationship is a case of ‘settling’, with the ‘bees’ settling all over their bodies.


Lines 15-19

what is surprising isn’t really so much
the person you are with but to find
yourselves so out of place in this scene, cold
but not able to get out without
stepping over bees, so many bees.

The final statement of the poem begins on the 15th line, continuing down until it reaches a climax on the final line of the poem. The starting phrase, ‘After twenty years of marriage’ is repeated here, insinuating that the poet is now actively going to make a change, the poem not copying the previous lines any further. The difference in grammar, with this repetition not having a caesura indicates that Jackson has become liberated from her relationship, the getting out of the pond signifying her leaving her marriage. The enjambment acts as a symbol of freedom, the lines flowing from one to the next quickly in this part of the poem.

Jackson states that she is not so much surprised by the ‘person you are with’, but rather the ‘place’ you find yourself in. She argues that although a person might not change much over twenty years of marriage, the circumstance of those people will change completely. Jackson finds herself in somewhere she doesn’t want to be. Although this is a person she once loved, they are now somewhere foreign and strange, and she doesn’t want to be there anymore.

The movement from ‘We’ to ‘you’ pronouns within the poem indicates the shift from relationship to single, with Jackson now freed from her relationship in this section of the poem.

It is not easy to escape circumstance, with Jackson using the metaphor of ‘bees’, with their potential to sting being all around. The ‘scene’ she finds herself in is ‘cold’, indicating her unhappiness. Yet she must climb over ‘bees’, hurdle after hurdle, and inconvenience after inconvenience to get out of her relationship. These roadblocks to escape are the final thing Jackson focuses on, the ‘bees, so many bees’ representing each unpleasant step she must take so finally rid herself of the ‘pond’ of marriage.

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Jack Limebear Poetry Expert
Jack is undertaking a degree in World Literature and joined the Poem Analysis team in 2019. Poetry is the intersection of his greatest passions, languages and literature, with his focus on translation bridging the gap.
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