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Rae Howells

The language of bees

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'These poems are rich in language, in poetic resources, in knowledge of nature – everything from the sexlessness of hydrangeas to how a bee breathes. Above all they are rich in love, for the world that we are inseparable from and on the verge of destroying.’ – Matthew Francis, Wing (Faber, 2020) 



‘The language of bees is a collection bursting with the beauty and life of the natural world. In these ambitious and accomplished poems, Rae Howells forges a unique and sparkling language, which is capable of giving us all the wonder and richness, the multi sensual onslaught, of the world around us. Whether the subject is an interaction with a wasp or a mermaid, the thoughts of trees or the feelings of a mother, the poems continually boom with so much life. The reader is left with the poems’ unforgettable phrases, their emotive impact and, more than anything else, the excitement that happens when a voice so fully itself meets subject matter of the greatest importance. On page after page, the power of these poems has us looking up, wanting to shout Hey world! Look at this! ‘ – Jonathan Edwards, Gen (Seren, 2018)


‘Rae Howells' words are electric with the sparks of motherhood, love and loss. Even in their depictions of suffering and sorrow, her poems are alive, humming and pulsing in their assured acceptance of grief as an intrinsic part of life. In The language of bees, we are reminded of the significance of every earthly cell, from a pulsing spark on an ultrasound scan to a bee hibernating above a winter Pilates class.’ – Mari Ellis Dunning, Salacia, Parthian 2018


'Rae Howells’ The Language of Bees is a poignant, well crafted and moving collection of work that I have found a delight to read.' – Pilgrim House


‘Surprising and vivid! A poet to watch.’ – Robert Minhinnick, Diary of the Last Man (Carcanet, 2017)


'This collection was refreshing, intellectually invigorating and a rich, imaginative experience... the reader is treated to transformative, inventive poems. This is a highly recommended collection.' –  Matthew M. C. Smith, Black Bough Poetry


'The book is rich in surprising imagery and pleasurable phrases; [...] it’s a delight to share her excitement at being in, and her care for, the natural world.' – Jane Routh, The Friday Poem


'Howells' poetry is clever, surprising, transmuting the world into what it truly is: a constant and consistent miracle.' – Buzz Magazine


How can we have hope in a world that is dying? With a forensic eye, Howells takes us on a journey through ordinary human lives and the extraordinary natural world we are in danger of losing. The carder bee carries the story of a colony, a species, and, ultimately, the fate of all life on earth. The mermaid weaves an almost beautiful tale of a tragic miscarriage. The magpie writes yearning letters to her lost lover. The brilliant kingfisher flits through the mind of a woman with dementia. Through each exacting portrait, we begin to understand something special, a language of bees, and discover for ourselves how intimately we are all connected and what the natural world is trying to tell us.


Rae Howells is a poet, journalist, academic and lavender farmer from Swansea. She’s won both the Welsh International and Rialto Nature and Place poetry competitions. Her work has featured in a wide range of journals including Magma, The Rialto, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review, Acumen, Envoi, Poetry Ireland, Black Bough, Marble and The Cardiff Review, as well as in the Poetry Business anthology, The Result is What You See Today and Arachne Press's anthology A470. Howells's pamphlet Bloom and Bones, co-authored with Jean James, was published by the Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2021. The language of bees is her first full collection.