While TS Eliot famously wrote that “April is the cruelest month,” he probably only said so because National Poetry Month hadn’t been invented yet. In honor of all things poetry, I’m going to attempt to post one of my favorite poems a day, along with a brief look at why I think it’s so grand. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Shady Grove by Maurice Manning
Booth lazes in the spidery orchard watching
a ladybug navigate the back of his hand
as if the sun-freckled territory seems familiar–
how she is like a red grain of creeping joy,
and those apple trees like lichen-clad promontories
poking into the middle air, and the shaggy moss
beneath his head, a shimmering green plain.
Such days come to him like a quivering dove
and he needs no earthly rewards for his pains
but this, when his heart becomes a book
of hours and the day becomes a vessel,
unmoored. Booth wants to tell the pagans
to smash their plastic gods. Have them roll up
their sleeves beneath an apple tree and watch
the spotted angels festoon their heathen wrists.
There is a lot about this poem that I love. It comes from Manning’s collection Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions, a series of poems revolving around the eponymous character and Booth’s family. While there are a lot of strong poems, “Shady Grove” is one of the standouts. It’s a beautiful moment in time, a reflection on the power and beauty of nature, and acts as another addition the overall understand of Booth as a fully realized character. That being said, even this single poem gives readers a sense of who Booth is and how he sees the world around him.
Welcome to National Poetry Month! I’ll keep a running list of the poems as they’re published below so you can use this has a handy guide to all the other great poems out there.
April 2nd: Naomi Shihab Nye: The Words Under the Words
April 3rd: Edwin Morgan: Good Friday
April 4th: Sylvia Plath: Blackberrying
April 5th: Seamus Heaney: Blackberry Picking
April 6th: Emily Dickinson: A light exists in spring
April 7th: Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Ulysses
April 8th: Lord Bryon & Alicia Ostriker Discuss Dogs
April 9th: Elizabeth Browning: Sonnet 14
April 10th: Stone’s Master of Disguise and Charles Bukowski
April 11th: Margaret Atwood: Backdrop addresses cowboy
April 13th: John Donne: A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning
April 15th: James Wright: A Blessing
April 19th: Gwendolyn Brooks: We Real Cool
April 20th: WB Yeats: The Second Coming
April 22nd: Maxine Kumin: After Love
April 23rd: Adrienne Rich: Dreamwood
April 25th: Nikki Giovanni: The Laws of Motion
April 26th: Langston Hughes: Theme for English B
April 27th: Carol Ann Duffy: Whatever