The Last Spelling Bee

by Benjamin Daniel Lawless

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112 pages, Published June 2011

Whether he’s writing a to-do list for time travelers, spinning a tall tale of how he won his sixth grade spelling bee, or painting a picture of life in a distant galaxy, Lawless’ work remains spry and lively, full of humor and surprising moments of mature clarity. For example, in “Spring Cleaning,” the volcanic mountain range surrounding San Luis Obispo suddenly erupts, destroying everything human and man-made in the area. “And we deserve it too, living as we do,” writes Lawless. “The arrogance of convenience, / our microwave ovens, / the slow drip in the kitchen sink.”

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So close

Out of the womb, like the best candy shop,
I stepped out a little sad. I was given two
of many things: hands, feet, ears.
But I really wanted two heads.

My mother, the doctors, they couldn’t understand
why I sobbed so much. I knew more than they could ever
how I was doomed to loneliness.
I’d never meet my best friend.

Never talk to myself and get an answer.

Nearly three years after his first book, There Is Nothing Poetic About Fish, Benjamin Daniel Lawless is in an entirely different frame of mind. “A lot changed in the last three years,” says Lawless. “I got married, for one. It gave me an opportunity to look at the long term, both forwards and backwards in time. Reflect on where I’ve been and plot out where I might be going.” It’s obvious that in The Last Spelling Bee, he’s doing just that.

Lawless has been writing poetry nonstop for over fifteen years. “I’ve always focused on the adventure of life, the surreal moments when a shape in the corner of your eye becomes something fantastic in your mind. Kevin Clark once said that in writing poetry, you have to lie to get at the truth. I couldn’t agree more.”

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