We are reminded of the significance of every earthly cell

Here Rae introduces her collection and talks about the inspirations behind her poetry...

You won’t be surprised to learn that a collection called The language of bees is all about the humble – but extremely important – bee.

There are poems about bumble bees, honey bees and other native British bees, as well as many other pollinators (including moths, grasshoppers, butterflies, birds, ants, beetles and even wasps) but in particular there is a sequence of poems threaded through the book that tells the story of a single, dying, common carder bee.

While I was writing the book I read a quote from the Welsh poet and climate activist Jay Griffiths, who said that no creature – not a single sparrow or bee – can now be “beneath our notice” as we try to save the natural world from the enormous challenges of climate change.

Around the same time, I found a dying bumble bee in my garden and tried to save it. The bee, a female, died. I genuinely grieved for her – there was a strange connection there. And so I think this unique bee’s story, a hard-working nurse bee at the end of summer, at the conclusion of her natural life, is a way for us to understand what’s happening on a large, worldwide scale, through one small personal story, which I hope demonstrates how we are all connected to each other. Bee to bee, bee to human, human to human.

Because of this, you could certainly say that my collection is about climate change and the role of bees in our survival. But I have also used bees as a way to write about motherhood, grief, loss, miscarriage, love and lots of other human dramas and emotions that I was experiencing as I wrote the poems in the collection.

I hope readers will be inspired to go outside and really pay attention to the small details, to take time to properly look and listen to what’s around them. I think we sometimes have a tendency to overlook the small unexciting creatures, the bees, ants and spiders, the sparrows and starlings, pigeons and magpies. Weeds, also, are seen as a nuisance and untidy, rather than as highly adapted plant species that are excellent at exploiting the environment they have evolved into, and which often provide essential food sources for bugs and small animals.

I’d like to think people will read my work and remember to appreciate them all. Nature has been very helpful to me at sad times in my life, particularly when I suffered miscarriages, and I think there is a special solace and comfort to be found in the way life springs up from the smallest crack in the concrete.