Spring has sprung, the grass has riz,
The birds are singing in the trees.
So goes the only poem I ever heard my dad recite. And we heard it every spring, often several times daily. You can probably imagine my surprise just now when I found out Dad had it all wrong.
Despite his relish for this corny half-stanza, Dad had little regard for poetry or poets. After Mom confided she had penned poems in her youth under the nom de plume Leona Dare, he teased her about it mercilessly until they finally divorced 40 years later. (There may have been other contributing factors.)
Growing up in a house where poets were mocked for sport made coming out of the poetic closet a daunting prospect. As a general practice, I tried to avoid being the butt of Dad’s jokes. So my inner poet went underground, emerging only briefly to express adolescent angst.
But April is national poetry month in North America. It’s time to fling open the closet door!
It’s a Month-Long Poetry Party
Canadians tend to be understated in their approach to most things, and that appears to include national poetry month. The League of Canadian Poets is sponsoring a series of poetry readings through April. The Americans are throwing a party! They offer 30 different ways to celebrate. I’m in for at least a dozen. How about you?
Commatology Poetry Challenge
Five wordless Wednesdays this month, I’ll post a photograph on this site. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write a poem about it (or inspired by it) and submit the poem using the comment box at the bottom of the page. You may use your own name or make one up. A proxy for each entry will go into this pot:
All entries must be submitted before midnight Pacific time on April 30, 2014.
Enter as many poems as you like, but make each one original. Don’t worry if you’re “not a poet.” The idea is to have fun. Vancouver’s poet laureate Evelyn Lau has no better chance of winning than the anonymous author of Springtime in the Bronx.
Now, to kick off my own celebration of national poetry month, here is another poem about spring, by one of my favourite American poets, Mary Oliver.
by Mary Oliver
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring
down the mountain.
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring
I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:
how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge
to sharpen her claws against
of the trees.
my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,
it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;
all day I think of her—
her white teeth,
her perfect love.
“Spring” by Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems. © Beacon Press, 1992.
Happy spring, and happy national poetry month!
Look for the first of commatology’s five April poetry challenges tomorrow. Tell your friends. Let’s have a poetry party.