Artist: Bonnie H. Behunin
If you log onto the Internet and type Bonnie H. Behunin or Bonnie Howe Behunin in a search window, you will find her. You may learn that she authored a book, Wake the Unicorn, and you might find it is still available on Amazon.com for $8.95. The copy “is signed by author. Very minor cover wear. Text clean, no marks. Pages tight. Purchase aids a non-profit animal hospice.” (I didn’t know there WERE animal hospices.)
Another link shares an excerpt from Wake the Unicorn, and you’ll learn the book was the …
1983, Wake The Unicorn by Bonnie Howe Behunin
Sometimes children taunt me,
small eyes whispering
behind hands extended
like open Chinese fans.
―Her face is smooth.
She is not old at all.
But I am old.
Old as the rocks
on the Greek shores
of my birth.
Old as your fear
of the unknown,
of my smooth face.
Guard your fear.
may be the only separation
from becoming me.
You might be curious enough to look up “Utah State Poetry Society” (USPS) or “Utah Poet of the Year,” and there you will see the long list of those honored since the award’s inception. Among those dates and names, you will find hers:
You will notice the two asterisks hovering near that capital “B”. Slowly, you scroll down to the bottom of the list, passing a few other starred names along the way. Double-spaced below the 1965 poet, “Vesta P Crawford Shortgrass Woman,” you find the key: “**deceased.”
Somewhere on the WorldWideWeb you might learn that Bonnie was born on February 22, 1948 to Pete and Ida Howe, but that would take longer than you have time. I doubt you would discover that she attended a one-room school house in Atomic City, Idaho or that she was diagnosed with “sugar diabetes” at age. 12. Your research may turn up her death date, and you may wonder if that vile disease brought her down at age 36. It did.
If you ordered Wake the Unicorn from Amazon or the USPS, you could read “About Bonnie” on page 57. The paragraphs would fill in some gaps – 4th of 5 children, rode the bus 2 hours a day to high school, read scores of novels during those rides and into the night, graduated from Brigham Young University with a double major in art and English, enrolled in every creative writing class that she could find, and her poems were published.
Before leaving the short biography, you discover that she adopted her two-year-old neice, Kristina in 1978 and married Newel Behunin at age 32. You won’t read that she taught school in Vernal, Utah until she went blind, but you will learn that “her close-knit family [had] been an inspiration to her … when her health [had] been precarious.”
If you peruse her poetry, you will most likely agree with the author of her biographical sketch who wrote, “Born … on George Washington’s birthday, this writer can ‘never tell a lie.’ Her poetry is honest, sometimes painfully so. She weaves memory into the fantasy of universal experience in a unique way.” And then you’ll re-read the judges comments:
Wake the Unicorn shows a consistent pattern of development; the voice in the poems is one of honesty and integrity … the strength is in its fresh imagery and sustained emotional impact. While the book is regional in its flavor, it escapes being too provincially involuted and bounded by the author’s ego.
Here is fresh perception, sensitive, genuine. There is a lovely, restrained tragic sense, but it is an un-self-centered and moving sorrow, and soul searching. This is artistic without artiness.
The author is facile, has caught in minor tunes, the major themes in life through a lovely simplicity.
If you read her poetry, you’ll see into Bonnie’s heart and mind and will feel the sensitivity, the honesty, and the tragedy. We were cousins, Bonnie and I, but I didn’t really know her. At age 7, I visited her in Atomic City and went with her to that one-room school for a day. I chatted with her at family reunions and ran into her now and again at BYU. We caught up with family news and then drifted back to our own lives.
In 1983, I attended the poetry reading and reception that honored her as Utah’s Poet of the Year. Dr. Max Golightly read her poems, and I was so proud OF and FOR her. I still am.
Bonnie haunts me, however, and so I want to remember and honor her during this month of her birth, this February with its Valentines Day and presidents’ birthdays. You see, Bonnie Howe Behunin lived as a poet, and her words memorialize her.