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Knowledgebase record #10


Evolution of the Genus Iris by Robert Michael Pyle, 2014

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander
Review date: 2014-07-23

Evolution of the Genus Iris jacket The title of Robert Michael Pyle's most recent book might fool readers into supposing it a scholarly treatise aimed at the ultra-specialist in the Family Iridaceae. Look inside the cover of Evolution of the Genus Iris and all will become clear: these are poems of everyday life from the particular perspective of a Pacific Northwest naturalist.

The Miller Library has several other books by Pyle (including Wintergreen about the ecology of the Willapa Hills, and The Butterflies of Cascadia : A Field Guide to All the Species of Washington, Oregon, and Surrounding Territories). These plain-spoken poems feature garden perennials, reflections on the Palouse Giant Earthworm, longhorn beetles, butterflies, banana slugs, and how could I resist mentioning a paean to librarians.

One of my favorites in this first collection of poems is "Botany Lesson: Cleome." It begins, "He called it bee balm, but I heard bee bomb." The poet and his friend are on a butterfly-collecting trip, encountering specimens of wild Cleome. Pyle points out that Theophrastus's coinage of Cleome was based on a mistaken notion that the plant was related to mustard, when it is actually "a caper called spider plant, or bee / plant, for the love of honeybees but never bee balm." It's a poem of friendship and reminiscence as well as an observation about the complexities and accidental poetry of naming things.


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