Spring’s been done to death, says the curmudgeon. And it’s true – a quick internet search of spring poems turns up thousands of examples dating from, roughly, forever. In ancient Greece, Pindar (522 B.C.–443 B.C.) wrote, “Sweet flowers usher in the fragrant spring.” In Rome, Horace (65 B.C.–8 B.C.) rejoiced that “Snows are fled; the trees put on their leaves, the fields their green.”
From modern writing, you remember how E.E. Cummings saw spring as “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful.” Or Emily Dickinson, thinking “A little madness in the Spring is wholesome even for the King…” Speaking of a daffodil, A. A. Milne wrote: “She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor: ‘Winter is dead.’ “ And from garden-gritty Margaret Atwood: “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
The curmudgeon grumbles, “Enough! Stale spring!” But, of course, it is not, can never be, stale. It by definition conquers stale, is the essence of fresh. And so, every year, brains thaw, eyes and windows open, and we can’t resist one more gush, one more poem! Spring will do that.
Here’s a poem by Charlotte Mew about spring conquering stale love: “I So Liked Spring.”
I so liked spring last year
Because you were here –
The thrushes too,
Because it was these you so liked to hear
I so liked you.
This year’s a different thing –
I’ll not think of you.
But I’ll like the spring because it is simply
As the thrushes do.
Here’s a favorite poem of mine on conquering stale humdrum, celebrating the very destruction of humdrum. You can’t read “Today,” by Billy Collins, without smiling.
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.
Another spirit-lifting spring experience is the annual Gloucester celebration of poetry and young poets. This year is the 17th Poetry Without Paper ceremony honoring the student winners of the contest, conducted by the Sawyer Free Library. It began with former director David McArdle’s vision and support and is still going strong, hundreds of poets and thousands of poems later. And fine poems they are, intelligent and mature, sensitive work on everything from the Red Sox to divorce, love, money and, of course, spring. The event is at the Sawyer Library, at 6 pm. June 13. (Read past winning poems at GloucesterPoetLaureate.org.)
The high school poetry scholars this year are Max Boucher and Rebecca Dowd. Both are strong poets and standout students at Gloucester High School. You may have met Rebecca at the Common Crow or during her volunteer days at the Open Door Food Pantry. She is off to Wesleyan University in the fall. Max also has an impressive GPA. You may also have seen him at the Open Door or watched him on the baseball team or running track. He’ll attend Northeastern University. Best of luck to both Rebecca and Max!
John Ronan is a former poet laureate for the city of Gloucester and host of “The Writer’s Block” on Cape Ann TV.