Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Form of Spring

This is the last day of what Dickinson called, “The Month of Proclomation”—March. It is cold, cloudy and windy.

As I wait on my garden and turn toward writing my own poetry, I’m wondering about form. There is beauty in form.

In Spokane, we have the most amazing garden to demonstrate this beauty at Manito Park; it’s called Duncan Garden. Each year the flowers are arranged in different patterns to achieve a completely new and fresh experience. There are an infinite amount of possibilities for the Landscape Architect to choose from.

And yet, it never feels stilted or controlled. Within the form of the garden, whose basic measurements are the same from year to year, a whole new experience will explode out, and it will stimulate all of our senses. People will drive to see it, Seniors will take their pictures there, weddings will be attended, picnickers will gravitate, symphonies will be performed, and my husband and I will take our yearly photo together at its steps. How can you quantify the infinite ways it will speak to people and influence the world?

This is how I think of form in poetry and music. First, we have to know our flowers. In writing, it’s our words. In music, it’s our notes. Then we have to think how one will compliment another and how it will flow as the walker or reader or listener moves through it. This would be our syntax and our rhythm. Do we alliterate with a row of Peonies? Do we hyperbolize with Brown Eyed Susans? Do we trill with daffodils?

Gardening is every bit a novel with its character’s stories: Some live, some perish, some struggle, some thrive. It’s every bit music as the energy from its color and textures and smells, and don’t forget the birds it attracts, sing out and ticker around us.

Emily Dickinson used form in poetry. Her earliest poems were very traditional as she learned the art. Later, when she’d mastered form and matured, her poems broke out and experimented–pushed boundaries. It’s her later work I love.

Emily (1047)

The Opening and the Close
Of Being, are alike
Or differ, if they do,
As Bloom upon a Stalk.

That from an equal Seed
Unto an equal Bud
Go parallel, perfected
In that they have decayed.

And, in honor of April coming, our old Emily fave–so full of romance and hope:

Spring comes on the World—
I sight the Aprils—
Hueless to me until thou come
As, till the Bee
Blossoms stand negative
Touched to Conditions
By a Hum.

Here is a poem by Longfellow, The Rainy Day, that both illustrates form and the actual feeling of the early spring weather we’re experiencing today. I think it’s very appropriate. The form here is aa, bb,a—a quintilla? A limerick? A quatrain with a dangling line? A sort of villanelle? The five time repetition of dark and dreary. The repetition of weary and mouldering. Is this poem making fun of its obsession?

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(1807-1882)

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

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A Poetic Spring

Although I’ve found, I can’t count on spring to honor its promise–lovely sunny days, flowers, and such–I can create my own warm place of poetry in the inner garden of my mind. I’ve worked for two years now, I think, on creating a poetic space; now it’s time to write the poetry.

Today, though we’re in spring (official) but not spring (proper), I dedicated a small stone of free-verse poetry to Fickle Spring. It’s 10:00 am in Spokane, WA and it’s 43 degrees, cloudy, wet and cold. This is the kind of cold you can’t escape. It sticks to you, and it even seems to be chasing people around. At least, it seems everyone is hurrying back and forth to their cars quicker than what I think is usual. Today’s high is going to be 56 degrees, but to get there we’ll experience the clash of two opposite weather systems which will create winds up to 50 mph.

I know it WILL come, but some days I begin to wonder…will this be the year Spring skips us?

So, here is my rant poem about Spring, followed by a pleasanter one by Emily Dickinson.

Spring struggles to arrive
Heavy winds bring ten degree warmer days
Then, heavy winds bring ten degree colder ones.
People hurry about, irritably, having dressed in sunshine
They are not prepared for midday snow.

There are crocus, snowdrops and daffodils
Finally, but barely, out of the ground
Leaves, yes, but no flowers, green spikes
Against a backdrop of mud.

Memories, I dig them up like warranties:
Spring ’05, we wore tank-tops with tan arms,
And that once wonderful April
When we wrote poetry out on the lawn.

Spring is like a fickle friend
We’ve learned we cannot trust,
It lavishes us with attention one day
Makes us co-dependent of itself
Then, just as quickly, turns its back
Acts as if we’ve never known each other at all.

It has no conscience, really,
Even when we beg it back
It won’t be made to feel guilty
It does what it will, when it wants
And, in the end, only comes forth
When we’ve given up hope it ever will.

And now, from Miss Emily D.

A Light exists in Spring
by Emily Dickinson

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

Bulbs Come Forth

Spokane, WA

High 46
Low 40

Raining, raining, raining

Mark your calendars, this is the week the bulbs came forth. The grass also, started to turn green again.

(Our box of bulbs from Blue stone Perennials–they came four months after we ordered them, in perfect time for fall planting.)

Last fall we planted Double Poet’s Narcissus, Mt. Hood Narcissus, Firefly Crocus, Whitewell Purple Crocus and Snowdrops. I see some of them coming up, but I can’t remember exactly where I planted each one. Kind of exciting!

Doube Poet’s Narcissus

Mt Hood Narcissus

Firefly Crocus

Whitewell Purple Crocus

Snowdrops (I haven’t seen them yet. Should they have already come up? Did the voles get them?)