There are a lot of poets that come to mind when I think about spring, and probably some for you too, but I want to recommend a few that you might not think of.
In these books, you won’t necessarily find flowers and natural scenes, but you will find an overall sense of rebirth, growth, and peace in the things that trouble us.
I hope you find at least one of these collections to suit you, whatever your spring.
The side effect of a passion for
waves is dream upon dream where each object is as blue as the sea.
Shira reminds me of spring. I’ve participated in her writers’ community, In Surreal Life, twice now, and she’s created a space that’s both bright and lively. With his own wisdom and that of passing poets, you are always surrounded by the sweetness and rigor of poetry.
This collection of poems is about Shira’s mental health journey, but also love, but also heartbreak and triumph. There are so many things in the pages. There’s even a bathtub scene with Björk.
As a bipolar person, I think mania can feel like spring, and taking medication and going to therapy to help manage emotions can make me feel like I’m losing that manic magic. These poems, the fact that Shira wrote them and everything in them seems to disprove that notion. Coming off the constant manic-depressive roller coaster and entering a world where I can feel joy and sadness as wholes and not halves is magical.
The poem “Side Effects II” ends with the penultimate chorus of “I’m making a plan for tomorrow” and isn’t it spring? Having a dream of tomorrow, knowing that another day awaits you beyond today’s challenges. There is life after all, even the things we thought we couldn’t conquer. This book proves it to me.
My cravings are berries because they are small and many
You shouldn’t judge the books by their covers but I love the cover of this book, it’s the sun, it’s the marigolds and the turmeric. That alone makes me think of spring.
The quote above is the first line of the first poem, and this poem ends with the lines
I am the serpent and I am the silence,
the rib of an animal cleaned.
It’s impossible to meet a serpent in a poem and not think of the Garden of Eden, so I do. Alicia also brings up sin, so I’m lined with thoughts of the Garden, what it means, who was there, what they did.
The most important word in this poem is “forgiveness” and reminds me of a God who expects mercy but is merciless. There are many poems in this book that revisit forgiveness, like “Drive Thru”, one of my favorite poems in the book.
All your desires are sacred.
All you need is to say them out loud.
I think forgiving is moving on to spring. Forgiveness not in the biblical sense of absolving wrongs, but forgiveness in the sense of moving forward on your own, without the added weight of resentment for wrongs done to you. I say this as someone who holds a lot of grudges, but would like to be a more forgiving person because I have been forgiven many times in my life.
If I’m not an ocean
I am nothing
This collection explores motherhood. The acts of being mothered and also mothering. I read it in college as I was going through a period of re-examining my relationship with my own mother. It was my first time away from her and I struggled without the weight of her gaze on me.
My relationship with motherhood is complicated and so colors my relationship with this book, when I read it I am reminded of the trope of the oppressive mother, the one I grew up with, and it takes everything in me not to cry.
These poems simmer, and in her own examination of herself as a mother, McCallum leads me to spring. I think bringing life into this world is the deepest thing, it’s a miracle, and we don’t think enough about the mothers we know, especially black mothers.
In “Dear History,” McCallum writes:
so i couldn’t say
if the silence was the sound
darkness is done
fall to the ground
or if the silence was in me
and I was the black.
and those lines take me back to childhood, wondering if i was mean because of the way people treated me. Raising a child is a tender thing, and there are so many ways to ruin that relationship, but McCallum’s poems truly rejoice in pregnancy and motherhood. The imagery she uses to describe it is soft and luminous.
I find spring there, and also forgiveness which also appears in this collection. Despite the heavier poems, there is still so much uplifting in this collection, so much that lifts you up in a world that often does the opposite.
Whole years will pass, under these impossible stars,
Kingdom Animalia contains many poems dealing with loss and grief, which at first glance may not recall anything quite like spring.
I think you could say there is a spring in sorrow. I don’t think mourning ends in the traditional sense, there is no end point where you go from mourning to no mourning, but there is a reprieve. In this collection, these moments of respite occur when the speaker recognizes the connection between natural life and that of human existence.
In “Dear Minnie, dear Mrs.” Girmay writes
Trust the queen it’s you
Trust the mud, it’s you,
& the soft, silver afro of the dandelion.
If you trust that you are in everything, even in the natural world, that the people you love who are gone are also in everything, it brings a certain comfort. I first read this collection while on vacation in sunny Florida, so maybe that’s when the idea of spring came to mind. But I think it’s also in the poems and in the language too.
Dunce by Mary Ruefle
You have loved and been loved
said the bee to the lily.
This collection wins the prize for the most times I smiled while reading a book of poetry. I wanted to end on this one because there is so much love bursting through these pages. So much elation and appreciation for life. These poems are funny and heartwarming, it’s probably one of my favorite collections I’ve read in the last five years.
Ruefle speaks of “convulsive tenderness” in “Grandma Moses” and orders that
Real snow shines,
so add glitter to the paint
when painting snow.
I read this book in bed at night and fell asleep smiling, it’s really good. This book contains one of my favorite lines from a poem: “I did some careful research and finally found out it was Thursday.”
I don’t know why this line makes me dizzy, many lines in these poems do. They just feel me with lightness and air. They are playful and silly and sometimes there is pain in them but the prevailing emotion is one of gratitude.
I think the speaker of this poem is grateful for Thursday, for breakfast, for the color purple, which in turn makes me grateful as a reader. this book gave me a new way of seeing and experiencing poetry. I have yet to find another collection that has made me feel like this, but luckily for me, I can revisit these poems whenever I want. And you too.
I hope the rest of your spring is filled with poetry. I hope you find something beautiful and warm in these poems, as I did. Happy reading friends!