Review: Becoming the Sound of Bees by Marc Vincenz

Matt Hill

Becoming the Sound of Bees
Marc Vincenz
Ampersand Books
Paperback, Perfect Bound, 112 pages
ISBN: 978-09861370-0-6
                                we listened
for the sound of bees
& hearing nothing
but the wind boxing the panes
we began to hum & buzz & drone
becoming the grey matter
before words
An amalgam of mythopoetic fragments woven into a narrative thread, Becoming the Sound of Bees assembles time in a triage of moments via the life of a shell-shocked wayfarer named Ivan. The individual poems here are integral parts comprising a narrated synergy that strives to recombine and recover Ivan’s personal gestalt: “It is a fractured cinematic narrative where scenes saturate one another and characters shift and exchange faces, some of which are our own” (Jake Berry).
Ivan is the Everyman, even as he is a protagonist with no heroics attached. The Everyman character in the text is shadowed by the narrator/commentator, allowing us to break through the fourth wall, that semi-porous membrane that covers our shared meldings with Ivan. The voice is omnipresent in this story, which also allows us as readers to project ourselves into Ivan’s wounded core; into the evocative imagery of these beach scenes; and most certainly, into his process of transmorphing himself while he uses his pain as the fuel to keep going in this shattered world of his.
We too are mythology … to live again transmorphed.
One wonders if Ivan might be a former academic, one who has experienced some form of life-shattering breakdown. Has he lost a child named Max? Has his wife also died? Or both, through some vicissitude of fate? He apparently no longer makes sense as he wanders through the dystopian scapes of his life on the beach, acquiring the detritus offered up by the oceanic tides. His prowess in the art of beachcombing, however, is immense and all-consuming.
Living in a ramshackle bivouac above a slough, composed and held together by civilization’s washed up debris, his is a cobbled-together beachcomber’s shack where he boils seawater for stews of invertebrates and kelp. He has chosen this spot on the bluff above the beach for access to the tides and what gets brought forth nightly. In a parallel way, his own personal tide coalesces with the oceanic tide, that giver of flotsam, existential knickknacks, and ephemeral trash.
Ivan, King of the Seaweeds, this exile from civilization, has become a bottle cap hoarder, nailing them to the south wall of his shack with any rusty sharp thing he can find. “Twist the Cap” has become his mantra. He is Ivan the Geomancer, pursuing auguries through this mythopoetic journey by the sea, drinking a psychotropic broth from a plastic bucket, which sources his hallucinatory episodes while a grey thrush chirps out fresh bird language as Ivan mimics its song. He and his commentator traipse up and down the beach, observing “the curious cacti on the hills,” Ivan soldiering his way on through his presumed PTSD hours, stumbling forth like one of Cormac McCarthy’s traumatized characters. Malcolm Lowry, another famous beachcomber, who sheltered up in a seaside bivouac in British Columbia, exiled from a world too wounding to live in, also comes to mind here.
Yet, given all this, we still want to know who this Ivan really is, this hoarder of memories, akin to Beckett’s Molloy perhaps, that outcast who hoards his sucking stones in a lonely sea cave. Ivan the beachcomber, with a loose rope belt such that he has to keep hitching up his odoriferous threadbare trousers, screams “blue at the sea” — “I’m the You!” he yells as he angles with his makeshift spear. He is a recorder of “illusions and smoke-knowledge,” indicating that “smoke is our umbilical cord … to the dark deities.” Perhaps through his scribbled metaphors, a possible redemption/salvation is being generated while he traipses across the silent desolate sands.
Also, referencing any possible absence of bees, apparently it is now us doing the buzzing. Yet how do we become, or even incorporate, the sound of the bees? Especially the buzzing sound, as defined in the word bombinate: to rumble, buzz, hum, or produce a low boom. The continuous sound of the surf that Ivan absorbs with each daily cycle may echo the symbolic sound of the bombination of bees. Or internally, there is the systole/diastole oscillation of this pulsing life, the sound of the blood as it expands and contracts through his cranium. Through this process of transmorphing that Vincenz alludes to throughout this text, perhaps this gives us a clue about the imminent peril that we as residents of earth now find ourselves in. 
While in the pregnant silences heard at noon, that is the noon that until recently was endowed with the low hum of apian industry, this quiet may fill the entirety of our empty days ahead. And yet this narrative, as loaded as it is with the metaphorical associations of hope, warns us about more than the demise of bees. Through poetic language that goes kaleidoscopic in Becoming The Sound Of Bees, we are given a sketch of what our future might become, whether we choose to heed it or not.
Certainly the exuberant forces exhibited by Vincenz’s imagination, erupting forth like Pele’s magma flowing into the Hawaiian seas, is palpably apparent in these poems, an igneous fluidity that depicts a human tragedy through the existential aftermath of coping with traumatic loss. One thinks of Berryman’s Henry, another soul who has suffered an irreversible loss like Ivan, proceeding through the minefields of self-alienation and depression. 
As one reads through these poems, it is striking how Vincenz has this great gift for working his language into such evocative imagery, his penchant for the scholarly blending with the quotidian, driving the transformative thematics throughout these poems. This book serves to remind us that breakdowns in our consciousness can also serve as breakthroughs; we will prevail only with the integrity of our fellow apian creatures if we do not succumb to despair, and proceed with hope and desire towards interpersonal wholeness.
Residing in the southern part of Northern California, Matt Hill is a sculptor, poet, and fiction writer. His poetry, prose, and short fictions can be found on many Internet venues, including BlazeVox Books, Argotist ebooks, and Gradient Books.