It’s here — the time T.S. Eliot called “the cruellest month” in The Waste Land: April! April is also National Poetry Month. As a poet, this is one of my favorite times of the year because I read more poetry than usual and try to participate in NaPoWriMo — National Poetry Writing Month — by writing one new poem for every day in April. (So far I’m 11 for 11!) In celebration of poetry and of a beautiful season, I’ve collected some favorite poems about or involving spring for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
Many of these poems are excerpted here, but you can (and should!) read the full poems by clicking the links provided.
High Dangerous (Catherine Pierce)
Pierce is one of my favorite contemporary poets. This poem, which was recently featured on Poem-a-Day by Poets.org, juxtaposes the innocence of childhood with threats of the larger world, all set against a springtime backdrop. Excerpt below.
I can’t correct them into
hydrangeas, or I won’t.
Bees ricochet in and out
of the clustered petals,
and my sons panic and dash
and I tell them about good
insects, pollination, but the truth is
I want their fear-box full of bees.
There Will Come Soft Rains (Sara Teasdale) — suggested by Amanda Barton via Facebook
Thanks to Amanda for reminding me of this timeless spring poem. This one is definitely worth revisiting if you haven’t read it in a while, and if this is your first time, you’re in for a treat. It is also, at its heart, a war poem, for which I have always had a soft spot. This is a short one, so I’ve included the entire poem.
There Will Come Soft Rains
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
Lilacs (Amy Lowell)
In this longer meditation on lilacs from 1955, Lowell uses irregular line lengths and directly addresses the flowers. Excerpt below.
You are of elm-shaded streets with little shops where they sell kites and marbles,
You are of great parks where every one walks and nobody is at home.
You cover the blind sides of greenhouses
And lean over the top to say a hurry-word through the glass
To your friends, the grapes, inside.
Today (Billy Collins)
Billy Collins was an early favorite of mine when I started writing poetry. I was lucky enough to hear him read (and pick him up from the airport!) a few years ago. I admire his accessible and honest style, and “Today” is a perfect example. This poem is essentially one long sentence, so I’m including it in its entirety.
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,
a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies
seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,
releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage
so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting
into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (William Wordsworth) — suggested by Robby Fowler via Facebook
When Robby mentioned this was a favorite of his, I was so excited to revisit it. This is one of those poems that I distinctly remember reading for the first time. I was in my eleventh grade English class, and I fell in love with poetry. Excerpt below.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Purple Anemones (DH Lawrence)
Okay, so Lawrence had some problematic views, but his poetry is something I come back to time and again. “Purple Anemones,” from my favorite collection of his, Birds, Beasts and Flowers, combines striking floral imagery with the mythical story of Hades and Persephone, suggesting the flowers come from hell to chase Persephone down. Excerpt below.
Dark blue anemones!
Hell is up!
Hell on earth, and Dis within the depths!
Run, Persephone, he is after you already.
Why did he let her go?
To track her down;
All the sport of summer and spring, and flowers snapping
at her ankles and catching her by the hair!
Instructions on Not Giving Up (Ada Limón) — Chosen by #BookSquad member, Mary
Mary praises this poem for talking about the difficulty of not giving up. Mary said, “But spring offers new beginnings. I love that Limón has a quiet optimism in her poetry.” I agree, Mary! Excerpt below.
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. . . .
The Thaw (Henry David Thoreau)
What’s a spring poem list without the quintessential nature writer? In this short poem, like in much of his writing, the speaker ruminates on his place in nature. Excerpt below.
Fain would I stretch me by the highway side,
To thaw and trickle with the melting snow,
That mingled soul and body with the tide,
I too may through the pores of nature flow.
What are your favorite poems about spring? Let us know what you would have included on this list!