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There are many poets that come to mind for me when reflecting on spring, and probably some for you as well, 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 a general feeling of rebirth, of growth, and of finding peace within the things that trouble us.
I hope you find at least one of these collections to be suitable for you, and whatever your spring may bring.
Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlichman
The side effect of a passion for
waves is dream upon dream where every object is as blue as the sea.
Shira makes me think in spring. I’ve participated in her writing community, In Surreal Life, twice now, and she has crafted a space that is both bright and vivid. With her own wisdom and that of visiting 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, and also heartbreak, and triumph. There’s so much within the pages. There’s even a bathtub scene with Björk.
As a fellow bipolar person, I think mania can feel like spring, and getting medicated and going to therapy to help manage emotions can feel like I’m losing that manic magic. These poems, the fact that Shira wrote them and all they contain, feel like they disprove that notion. Coming out of the constant manic-depressive roller coaster and into a world where I can feel joy and sadness as wholes and not halves, that’s magic.
The poem “Side Effects II” ends with the penultimate refrain of “I make a plan for tomorrow” and isn’t that spring? To have a dream of tomorrow, to know that another day is waiting for you beyond today’s challenges. There is a life after everything, even the things we thought we couldn’t conquer. This book proves that for me.
High Ground Coward by Alicia Mountain
My desires are berries because they are small and many
We are not to judge books by their covers but I love the cover of this book, it is the sun, it is marigolds and turmeric. That alone makes me think of spring.
The quote above is the first line of the first poem, and that poem ends with the lines
I am the snake and I am the silence,
an animal’s rib picked clean.
It is impossible to encounter a snake in a poem and not think of the Garden of Eden, so I do. Alicia also conjures sin, so I’m doubled with thoughts of the Garden, what it means, who was there, what they did.
The biggest word in this poem is “forgiveness” and makes me think of a God that expects mercy but who 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 speak them aloud.
I think to forgive is to pass toward spring. Forgiveness not in the biblical sense of absolving evils, but forgiveness in the sense of moving forward yourself, without the extra weight of resentment for wrongs done to us. I say that as someone who holds many grudges, but would like to be a more forgiving person as I have been forgiven many times in my life.
This Strange Land by Shara McCallum
If I am not an ocean
I am nothing
This collection explores motherhood. The acts of being mothered and mothering equally. I read it in college when I was going through a time of reexamination of 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’m 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 stew, and in her own examination of herself as a mother, McCallum leads me to spring. I think to bring life into this world is the most profound thing, it is a miracle, and we don’t think enough of the mothers we know, especially Black mothers.
In “Dear History” McCallum writes:
so I could not tell
if silence was the sound
fall over the earth
or if silence was within me
and I was the dark.
and those lines bring me back to childhood, wondering if I was evil because of the way people treated me. Raising a child is a tender thing, and there are so many ways to fuck up that relationship, but McCallum’s poems really rejoice in pregnancy and motherhood. The imagery she uses to describe it is sweet and bright.
I find spring in that, and also forgiveness which appears in this collection as well. Despite the heavier poems there is still so much that rises in this collection, so much that lifts you up in a world that often does the opposite.
Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay
Whole years will be spent, underneath these impossible stars,
Kingdom Animalia contains many poems dealing with loss and grief, which at first glance may not bring anything like spring to mind.
I think you could argue that there is spring in grief. I don’t think grief ends in the traditional sense, there isn’t a full stop where you pass over from grieving to not grieving, but there is reprieve. In this collection, those moments of reprieve come when the speaker recognizes the connection between natural life and that of human existence.
In “Dear Minnie, Dear Ms.” Girmay writes
Trust the queen is you
Trust the mud is 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 that have gone are also in everything, that brings a certain comfort with it. I read this collection for the first time while on vacation, in the Florida sun, so maybe that’s where the idea of spring comes to mind for me. But I do believe it is also in the poems and in the language as well.
Dunce by Mary Ruefle
You loved and were loved
said the bee to the lily.
This collection wins the award for the most times I have 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 exaltation and appreciation for life. These poems are funny and comforting, it’s probably one of my favorite collections I’ve read over the last five years.
Ruefle writes of ‘convulsive tenderness” in “Grandma Moses” and orders that
Real snow glitters,
so add glitter to the paint
when painting snow.
I read this book in bed overnight and went to sleep smiling, it is really that good. This book contains one of my favorite lines of a poem: “I have made cautious/inquiries, and finally learned it is/ Thursday.”
I don’t know why that line makes me feel giddy, many lines in these poems do. They just feel me up with lightness and air. They are playful and silly and sometimes there is a pain in them but the prevailing emotion is one of gratitude.
I think the speaker in this poem is thankful 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 one, but luckily for me, I can revisit these poems when I want to. And so can you.
I hope the rest of your spring is filled with poetry. I hope you find something beautiful and warm within these poems, the way I did. Happy reading friends!