Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fame is a bee

I'm not sure what Dickinson's thing with bees was. I think I saw an article about it, possibly entitled "In the name of the Bee," which is the title of one of her poems. At any rate, bees are a common theme, symbolizing in today's poem the nature of the insect as industrious, menacing, and fleeting:

Fame is a bee.
It has a song--
It has a sting--
Ah, too, it has a wing.
(F 1788)

Just the other day I read an article on AOL news about one of the American Idols, and the article suggested this former idol was trying to escape the fall from interest that former contestants like Fantasia Barion and Rueben Studdard have endured. Overall, our interest in celebs tends to follow trends. I doubt that in more than a few years that quasi-celebs like Octomom or Jon and Kate Gosselin will be much heard from.

Dickinson's poem is ardently true in both the cases of Nadya Suleman and the Gosselins. All found fame under what seemed a song. In Suleman's case, this was the birth of surviving octuplets. In the case of the Gosselins, it was their family of eight-- twins and then sextuplets-- and their struggles and successes in raising the children. And quickly with Suleman, the sting of fame made itself known as the circumstances around the conception of the children, all invitro including her six previous children, were made known. Recently the sting of fame has hit the Gosselin family, too, as Jon and Kate are seeking divorce. Both Suleman and the Gosselins have become almost daily fodder for gossip magazines, and neither they nor any of their children seem to be able to find any privacy from the constant attention from paparazzi.

It seems perfectly logical that the "wing" of fame may soon make itself known. As soon as Suleman and the Gosselins fail to make the photogs and writers money, their five minutes of fame will end. They will be relegated to the history pages, the scandal or intrigue long gone.

Perhaps this is again why Dickinson so shyed away from public life. Part of me wants to believe that she knew how brilliant she was, that she understood she had a great gift. And maybe she chose her life of semi-isolation as her own buffer, to protect herself against the sting and the wing of fame. If left alone, the bee will produce something exceptionally better than a sting-- namely honey. By stepping back from fame and letting it flitter past, Dickinson achieved far greater rewards, a longer lasting and sweeter legacy (even if her poems can still often contain sting that would rival the bee's).

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