Title: When Bees Flew in for Breakfast
Author: Nigel Tetley
Publisher: Choir Press
5/5 stars


This magical collection of 40 original poems compiled by Nigel Tetley is a treasure. The thing with poetry is each time you read it, you can get a different interpretation, which makes it such a powerful form of literature. Your feelings, memories, conversions you’ve had and those you interact with all come into play when interpreting what you read. You will find value in the questions raised, the memories evoked and a view on the world from the eyes of questioning, youthful minds.

Don’t disillusion yourself by thinking this collection is just for the younger generation; it’s not. The middle-aged can lend themselves to a poetic education in their work breaks, and the elderly a little reminiscing about their more innocent days. Let yourself be swept away by the bees that flew in for breakfast, the wind as a menacing banshee, and the linguistic verses of an art that’s disappearing with the bees. And don’t forget your mug of hot cocoa and a rug for the couch; it may be winter, but there’s nothing like a book to help the “frosty mornings” slip by.

The collection begins with a piece entitled The Prisoner.

This poem gives itself personality, a voice that speaks to the reader, a voice that feels it has to justify its existence. It questions the need for this justification and ultimately gives itself the creative license to do as it pleases. Through this, it challenges you as the reader to question the legitimacy of everything in its entirety. It speaks out to you, invites you into the pages of ink, to decipher was really is between the lines.

Mr Tetley couldn’t have chosen a better piece to begin this collection. It effectively sets a challenge to the reader to open their eyes to the details, the creative quips in the writer’s style the draws out deeper meanings from between the lines. This is very important as without this perspective, one would question the effectiveness of the next poem in this collection: A Year & A Day

This piece stood out to me. In short, it’s a brief, “stripped back” poem, consisting of twelve verses made up of two lines each – one for each month of the year. I feel the success of the reader truly understanding this piece relies heavily on their location. For somebody in the Northern Hemisphere, they’d make an instant connection as the seasons assigned to each month reflect the reader’s interpretation of what each month represents in their own experience. However, if somebody in New Zealand were to read this as I did, they’d most likely feel disconnected. The matter of location also has an influence on the jargon, euphemisms and choice of language in this poem, as New Zealanders don’t speak of “May’s Green Country Hedgerows” or “December Woodlands With Owl”

However, taking into account the theme if the first poem, one can overlook this indifference with maturity, and apply their own feelings to the months of the year.

The poems continue throughout the collection in varying lengths and verses, some on trivial topics of The Shock Of Teaspoons and others as serious as The Actor’s Soliloquy.

Lastly, a piece entitled Color Contest intrigued me, as its themes are so relevant to society today. Its simple construction of letting colours express themselves, their perceived identity, and what they’re typified to represent, has such a strong message that rings current with cultural views right across the Earth.

This heavily charged piece speaks of a meeting of colours and their bid to come to an agreement on who is the best. Each colour offers up its qualities to support why it’s the best, and with all due respect, none of them are wrong. Each colour is evidence to why diversity in different forms is healthy, and contributes to a healthy, more open-minded and therefore tolerant society. And if you dared to read into this any further, perhaps you could suggest that these colours of of the rainbow represent the challenges of the LGBIT Community and the Pride Movement.

As you can see, reading through a collection of poems can churn up opinions, feelings, and even memories, taking the reader into a place where they can further educate themselves. This diverse collection that Tetley has put together achieves just that, and I hope that you too will pick up this collection of poems and let it whisk you away to that garden of contemplation. As detailed or simple as a poem may be, it’s still abstract, layered with so many different meanings. It just depends on how deep you want to dig.