April Comes Like an Idiot

It’s April. Fields of flowers, tons of rain, loss and renewal, and poetry.

I love Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Spring,” not just for its oh-so-quotable (and I often do) “April / comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers,” but for what precedes it — “It is not enough that yearly, down this hill / April / Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.” I love how angsty and dark it is, teenagery — even as it describes spring beauty (“The smell of the earth is good” and “the redness / of little leaves opening stickily”)  there are maggots eating brains, and not just underground either. It’s a delicious mix of darknesses. She doesn’t deny beauty, it just isn’t enough.

For April rain we turn to Langston Hughes’ “April Rain Song.” Not a complicated poem in thought, but it has a wonderful rhythm.

A consequence of rain is of course mud, and mud makes the world mudlicious, or does if you’re e. e. cummings. “[In Just-]  is such a wonderful childhood/spring poem. “and eddieandbill come / running from marbles and / piracies and it’s / spring.”  Spring is also, for cummings in another poem, a less exuberant, more curious and thoughtful “perhaps hand / (which comes carefully / out of Nowhere)arranging / a window,into which people look.”

Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Spring” must be read aloud. It’s so juicy and lush to say,

Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
and so on. Wonderful stuff, Hopkins.
There are many many more spring poems out there. Poetry Foundation has a nice list, as does Poets.org.
I think I’ll end with a Tony Hoagland poem called “A Color of the Sky” which is also a melancholy spring poem, though not quite as angsty as Millay’s. I don’t love this poem, though some readers might. There’s something about its stance, this sort of speaker’s tone that I just am not all that into. A taste thing. On the one hand, I like, at the end of the first stanza, “but that doesn’t make the road an allegory” as a concept, pointing that out, on the other hand, that sort of literary (anti-literary?) posturing isn’t very interesting after a while. However, I like the general feeling you wind up with after reading the poem, that stripe of April-ness, and though the beginning and middle of the poem are not my favorite, I do love the closing description of the dogwood tree losing its mind:

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals’ to the ground in clouds,

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

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