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Bees - A Metaphor For Human Behaviour, Society & Politics

In this month’s blog we are taking a look at metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn't literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.

‘He was the black sheep of the family’ is a popular example … he may not be black and he is definitely not a sheep but the metaphor helps to explain.

Bees are frequently used as metaphors for human behaviour, society and politics. This metaphor is nothing new! The Shakespearean example below relates to The Archbishop of Canterbury justifying the invasion of France to Henry V.

… “the honeybees, Creatures that by a rule in nature teach, The act of order to a peopled kingdom.”…

There are plenty of more modern examples. In her book The Bees, Laline Paul uses a colony of bees as a metaphor for a dystopian, matriarchal future where love, freedom of thought and motherhood are subsumed by deference and the mantra to ‘accept, observe and obey’

This month we invite you to explore metaphor, using a colony of bees as a start point

  1. Fold a piece of paper in half

  2. On one side, write a list things (abstract or concrete) triggered by imagining a bee colony e.g. matriarchy, hexagon …

  3. On the other side, write a list of things (abstract or concrete) triggered by thinking about what’s going on in the world right now, our society or government … e.g. lockdown, vaccine

  4. Now select some pairings between things on the left and things on the right. Don’t pick things that match, try to pick interesting mismatches or even random pairs

Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘Metaphors’ uses pairings very similar to the ones you will have created, to describe her experience of pregnancy

I’m a riddle in nine syllables

An elephant, a ponderous house,

A melon strolling on two tendrils.

O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!

This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.

Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.

I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf

I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,

Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

  1. Now select, arrange and develop your own pairings to create a metaphorical piece of poetry which describes your experiences.

We look forward to hearing how you get on.

Janet and Clara

If you'd like to book onto our remaining three virtual workshops in August, September and November for just £18, secure your place now by clicking here.

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