by Patricia Deaton
COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER
Keith Flynn’s latest published chapbook, Colony Collapse Disorder, an ambitious collection of poems in all types of forms and textures, gets it title from the phenomenon that happened a few years ago when honeybees (known as a whole to be stressed-out and immune-deficient, according to researchers) started dying off. According to Flynn’s preface, each poem attempts to capture the sense of what a worker bee might see through human eyes.
Compiled alphabetically according to the names of places in the world, two poems (each inspired by a place, its geographic characteristics, history, etc) are assigned for each letter of the alphabet and correspond with fifty-two weeks of the year. With the Mayan calendar’s circular structure thrown in for good measure and each poem connected to the one before and after by a word, image or theme, this explanation of the book’s arrangement seems complicated and off-putting before one even gets started.
The KISS formula of ‘keep it simple, sweetie’ does not apply anywhere in this collection of poems. To be fully appreciated, these poems should be sat with and read more than once.
At first pass, some wonderful lines in different poems stand out such as ‘Success has many fathers, they say, but failure is an orphan’ from “European Political Discourse and the Paranoid Style”.
In “The Agnostic”, ‘the loss of faith is a slow process…trembling with extinction…a free-swimming creature finds itself glued by the head to a rock’ is a fantastic portrayal, suggestive of the futility humans sometimes feel when they dig deep into their beliefs.
“The Silver Surfer” is heartbreakingly beautiful in its hopeless helplessness while “Nanking 1937” glows with courage.
An interesting and unique take on the experience of the social media instrument known as Facebook, Flynn’s poem by the same name reveals how unfulfilling, frustrating and erroneous trying to connect in cyberspace can be.
“The Resurrection of Haute Couture” is quirky and fun in its list of past fashion designers and divas, and their attributes.
“Alabama Chrome” and “The Future of an Illusion” are two illustrations of the dark and fragile nature of humanity in which the author gets down and dirty with what seemingly holds us together.
“Night Train to Omega” rides along the Eastern Seaboard, images of students at a writers’ conference and of regular bus travelers mixed in with thoughts on lightning strikes, heartbeats, foreign facts to ponder, and a Christ-like Ronald McDonald. Here is an example from the sixth stanza:
From Belleville to DC on the Night Train
A chocolate mother nurses her black baby
with Kool-aid from an aluminum bottle.
Little angel’s wings dropped off in Richmond
And the singing infant’s full throat flung open
Every noise is not joyful, my friend.
And from the last stanza:
There are no famous writers…only famous re-writers eliminating waste.
Listen, I repeat, listen with your whole being…
Keith Flynn’s multi-faceted intellect, spirit and listening ability are more than evident in these poems. Lots of images, ideas and phrases will hit you where it hurts. But you’ll get over it, and be better for it.