Eileen Myles with this free verse poem called “The Honey Bear”, of the New York School poets declares her loneliness expressed by a delicate and distinct way, in an everyday ordinary detail that fills the atmosphere with a tragic isolation of self.
Trying to find a secondary message, deeper meanings in her poem, fact rather hard from the close reading, I found that there don’t exist any, without the poem losing its authenticity as it stands, the full of passion attitude, or its value per se.
I revealed some info in the web that partly confirmed the above statement and also Pr. Al said in one of the recent videos that “The language of poetry means was it is”. The author Mac Kenzie Davidson wrote after had spoken with Eileen about this very specific poem: (apposition 1).
On how she uses language and while searching for the “O” of her poem, I was sure it was the name of a pet, Eileen has always relationship with dog or cat, (apposition 2), found that when she arrived in New York she was strongly influenced by Frank O’ Hara. So, the “O” may be used as the “O” Hara middle name. At the final lines of her poem the binary meaning of “O” is clear that is used and as exclamation.
About the Honey, Eileen was owner of a pit bull called Honey. So, the “Honey” can be also explained with a binary meaning (apposition 3).
Molding on the Poem
When firstly someone reads this poem a black suit of loneliness and inner-self-time dresses him/her up. It’s an ordinary night in the kitchen, bright in the sense of inner-feeling of the author and in the background voices of two jazz legends. Their fame surpasses local limits and someone may feel suffocated. As magnified lens they transform the reality of “now” in a hard to realize factor of comparison between space – time (clock night time – kitchen space) and the everlasting classic for those artistic existences with widened minds and wide souls as it is Eileen.
A cup of odd tea and a cat (or dog?) accomplish the scene. The years fall heavy to author. The night seems long so as to smoke a pack of cigarettes (working verses), when someone belongs to the “smoking generation”, (grass, cannabis etc).
Through her lines, the time changes alternately with the usage of past and present continuous tenses escalating images/emotions. This narration style belongs to New York School. Eileen by using past and present progressive gives us short and long term meaning to her feelings, to her presentation.
That’s one of the characteristics of New York’s “students” (School without students…?). The narrative style with a forth back time resonance and an anti-narrative look, in its unfolding images stabilizes the past and enhances with progressiveness the “now action” indeed in the past.
The final shape
She feels her kitchen “bright”, referred twice, bright to her senses. Her pet (?), O is sweet tonight. Two facts so matched together that someone touches her loneliness. With that she moved to sweeten her odd tea. The tube of honey shaped as bear squeezed by her impulse to sweeten her tea. A portion of honey is in her odd tea. From the loose cup few drops falls under bears eyes. She looks at them. How? Tears of honey run beneath bear’s eyes! In her bright kitchen, she is staring the “tears”, on the radio the voice of Ivy Anderson. “O” my Honey! How sweet can be made an odd tea this night?
After a brief conversation via email with Myles, however, I realized that I was not using the poem how Myles wrote it to be interpreted. Originally, I was trying to find a figurative/symbolic meaning, but then Myles told me that the poem was written very literally. After this I decided to focus more on the way the Myles uses language and how the way that she uses music affects the reader. In my essay though, I still analyze the deeper meaning that I get from the poem; as Myles suggested when I asked her about the purpose “The question is what you see. Does it matter? We all see different.”
I remember standing in a bookstore, Corinth Books, and picking Frank O’Hara’s SELECTED POEMS out of a pile and reading it. And I thought he sounded just like the city. It was this kind of gay man talking immediately, and I wanted to be in that.
Honey was a young very beautiful high energy pit who would be put down that day at 1PM. When I read the email it was 1:06. I quickly wrote Cheri back and began praying like a clown. The idea was to get Honey out of the shelter and away from her execution (her crime: having been there two weeks. That’s it for a young pit) and we’d figure out her future later. My fostering her was the first step.