Poetry We Admire: Spring
For March’s PWA, our editors sought out poems that explore that delicate, eternal subject, Spring. Featuring work from Leila Chatti in The Journal, Ruth Awad in Poem-a-Day, Dominica Phetteplace in the newest Copper Nickel, and Kate Gaskin in Thrush Poetry Journal.
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.” – TS Eliot, The Wasteland
Winter’s resumed and I’m sorry
to report I’m like the trees—
from “February Letter to Ghost Mother”
by Leila Chatti in The Journal
“Ghost mother, today I ate sour cherries on toast / and the man cried three times,” Leila Chatti writes in her icy poem “February Letter to Ghost Mother.” Bitterness is conveyed in the tone as well as the sensory imagery the speaker navigates. From the first line, taste, temperature, and color are woven throughout the poem. The speaker manages to be blunt and detached without actually saying much — though blood stays on the reader’s mind from the inclusion of “cherries,” “scab,” and “drained of blue.” Chatti’s haunting poem captures the melancholy felt when the seasons change, the frustration and grief of starting and stopping.
Let me look at your face and see a heaven worth having, all
your sorry angels falling off a piano bench, laughing.
From “In the gloaming, in the roiling night”
by Ruth Awad in Poem-a-Day
Ruth Awad’s poem “In the gloaming, in the roiling night” depicts the loneliness of harboring a depression while “Outside / the joy is clamoring,” a sentiment sure to resonate with many when the weather warms. The poem’s drama is propelled by the stark images of a “wingless sky” and “sorry angels falling off a piano bench,” alongside the speaker’s pleas, “let me spring from the jaws of what tried to kill me.”
I am not good at self-atonement.
I bought myself an inspirational day planner.
The plan was to get organized, and then,
From “How to Forgive”
by Dominica Phetteplace in the newest Copper Nickel
Dominica Phetteplace’s deadpan humor delights in both of her new poems, “How to Forgive” and “Parallel,” in the latest issue of Copper Nickel. Spring is often associated with starting new, cleaning house literally and figuratively. In “How to Forgive,” Phetteplace explores these ideas with sardonic lines like “my problems won’t be vanquished by an elimination diet,” and, “I bought myself an inspirational day planner… Every page of the planner has a section devoted to ‘gratitude’ / but I am not the type of person to engage in ideological battles with a consumer product / especially one I bought for myself.” Unsolicited ideas about self-improvement are all around us—but Phetteplace’s poem reminds us “there isn’t anybody who knows how to live my life for me. / I will try to be grateful for that.”
Even if elderberry
if oranges mottled and hard
in winter or kings
in their migration north
frozen in ryegrass
in the dead end of spring. Even then
From “Elegy with Citrus Greening and a 100-Year Flood”
By Kate Gaskin in Thrush Poetry Journal
Kate Gaskin’s elegy is composed of conditionals that never conclude, “Whether the trilliums appear / at the foot of March,” echoing the uncertainty of what comes next. What happens after an unfathomable loss? After winter? It’s unimaginable. Gaskin writes into this bewilderment, using repetitions to heighten the state of uncertainty, “Even then / even then in beauty / even if gone, if the water rising.”