Wrote a while back. Never posted, never really finished.
“The Spring Poem,” by Dave Smith.
“Awaking in New York,” by Maya Angelou.
“Spring,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.
“The birthday of the world,” by Marge Piercy.
Yes, we can look backward to winter or, sadly, to the present still-winter. I’m looking out the window at the increasing flurries right now, and the forecasters say freezing rain will follow. This first day of March, as I mentioned earlier today, follows Washington’s coldest February in 36 years.
Meanwhile in Chicago, coming off a month of great poems related to Black History Month, and a brutal and continuing winter, the Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day feed resumes more-varied broadcasting today with an Emily Dickinson poem comparing traumatic pain to snowy cold and death.
But all isn’t lost in a snowbank. There’s some hope in the verses. The chilly pain can be “Remembered, if outlived.” A final line mentions, after the chill and stupor, the possibility of letting go. Letting go bad? Or letting go good? I’m choosing to be optimistic today, even as the snow blows.
Looking for more about the poem, I came across a site called Shmoop.com, which seems to be CliffsNotes-meets-Buzzfeed. (A related-stories area gets the header, “People who Shmooped this also Shmooped….”) Shmoop chases this Dickinson poem for its millennial (or younger?) audience, and the site’s conclusions make my day.
Sooner or later, everybody gets a shock. And we’re not talking about the kind of shock you get when you try to slide a Hot Pocket out of the toaster oven with a fork. We’re talking about the kind of deep emotional shock that comes when something seriously bad happens.
Maybe you miss the final shot at the big game even though you’re awesome. Or it could be that you discover your Dad has a secret family in Costa Rica. Or maybe somebody close to you dies.
Whatever it is—no matter how huge or miniscule—the period of time right after the initial pain can be pretty crappy. You can feel lost, alone, and totally numb to the world.
Whenever you’re feeling like this, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes” is a poem that’s there for you. Don’t expect it to be there with sunshine and roses, though. Nah, it’s that friend who’s there to say, “Look, dude, I know how you feel.” As you read these lines that perfectly capture the conflicted feelings that come after a trauma, you’ll know it’s being straight up with you.
So, like the angsty tween readers of Shmoop, let us try to move forward with hope. In poetry selections of this time of year, I see so much “Look, dude, I know how you feel” happening. We know spring lurks!
Related favorites of mine recently include…
“Probability,” by Lia Purpura.
Most coincidents are not
miraculous, but way more
common than we think—
it’s the shiver
of noticing being
“Abide” by Jake Adam Work, and Natasha Trethewey’s first selection for the poem feature in the redesigned New York Times Magazine. It’s a slow burner, growing warmer, and worth it.
Trethewey’s second selection, “Moth Orchids” by Ellen Bass, is fantastic too. Trethewey writes: “Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings showed us how sensual flowers could be. Ellen Bass’s poem does this, too, reminding us of the power of metaphor: how one thing is like another, how desire can be reflected in the way we see and how our sustained attention — to language, to the things of this world — can reward us again and again.”
“An Old Woman’s Painting” by Lynn Emanuel speaks to the warmth we find even when the nights are cold, mentioning autumn but still fitting for this time of year when we doff or don our coats depending on the time of day. “Let the world stand wearily on the stoop of the jail / of the world….”
And then there’s “I Allow Myself” by Dorothea Grossman. It begins:
I allow myself
the luxury of breakfast
(I am no nun, for Christ’s sake).
Last, we have “The Mushroom House,” which isn’t a poem at all but an actual house. Click to see the photos. The name fits, and right now I wish I could live there.
The architect, inspired by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, created an undulating design with rolling curves and curls. Because of the home’s cavelike exterior, created by a polyurethane foam coating, many people are surprised to find it light and airy inside, not dark and gloomy.
“It is very, very private,” Frances said. “It is open and free but very private.”