Allow seasonal shift to power your poetry
I love the start of a new season. I’m invigorated by the shifts in temperature, clothing, holidays, and routines, and I’m fascinated by the day-to-day changes of the natural world.
I try to take a walk at least once a day, and love watching daffodils emerging, or leaves drifting down, or geese honking overhead on their migratory route as seasons transition from one to the next.
In just a handful of days, on March 20, spring will officially begin. And what better way to mark the start of a new season than with a poem?
Poems about the seasons are nothing new. Poets from all across the world have been writing about spring, summer, autumn, and winter for hundreds upon hundreds of years. And whenever I hear the word “season,” I think immediately of one of my very favorite seasonal poems: “To Autumn,” by John Keats, the English Romantic poet who wrote in the early part of the nineteenth century.
“To Autumn”—an ode to fall and all its golden melancholy—opens with a line that has swirled around in my head ever since I first read it more than two decades ago: “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” What a gorgeous, evocative way to describe the beginning of autumn!
Of course, Keats’s version of autumn may be very different from yours or mine. The way we experience a season is influenced by all kinds of factors, including where we live (fall in Hampshire, England isn’t the same as fall in, say, Starkville, Mississippi), what we enjoy and don’t enjoy, and what associations and memories accompany a particular season for us. This very individual way each of us experiences a season’s complexity is what makes it such ripe material for poetry.
This Month’s Poetry Break: To Spring
Taking a cue from Keats, think about what spring is the “season of” for you. Be as specific as you can, and feel free to incorporate a mix of concrete details (wisteria, pollen, mud), memory (that spring your backyard was flooded for two weeks), and metaphor (spring is the feeling of almost; spring is a tentative hand reaching toward summer). Don’t be afraid to play with seemingly contradictory ideas here—you might love certain aspects of spring and really dislike others, and that combination of positive and negative can give your poem some great (and very human) texture. Be sure to give Keats a little shout-out in your poem’s title, to credit him, and then have fun exploring what spring is to you.
To Spring (after John Keats)
Season of mud and wisteria.
Season of yellow pollen blanketing
my shoes, my car, my dog.
Season of almost-but-not-quite.
You are early morning birdcalls
and tornado sirens.
You are strawberries
and the brightest gold sun.
You are my backyard flooding,
my azaleas blooming,
the sharp, clean smell
of onion grass
and whatever’s next.
As we enter into this new season, consider your version of spring—what thrills you, what annoys you, what you feel and remember whenever you see the daffodils blooming. Let your poem be as unique as you are. Revel in the details. Write your life.
Catherine Pierce is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi and the author of four books of poems, most recently Danger Days. She co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.