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

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.


2 responses to “The Form of Spring

  1. How interesting that you and your husband take annual photographs at the Duncan Garden. As you document your journey together in this life, which always is changing and taking new shape, and new dimension, doesn’t the floral and landscape behind you also. It’s a nice way to reflect where you’re at each year, literally and abstractly.

  2. emilydickinsonsgarden

    Nicely put, Joanne. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

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