Saturday, June 21, 2014

Inspiration from the Seasons

It has been said that every poet writes at least one poem devoted to spring. The change of the seasons, particularly from winter to spring, can open a floodgate of poetic images. As I write this, the world is celebrating the summer solstice -- June 21.

Many of my poems have been inspired by New England weather. For example, in my poem "Late Night," written about being newly married, I write "A long season has begun in this cold place where we have bedded down, tasted ice." In another winter poem, "Wychmere Harbor," I explore how a desolate landscape mirrors inner isolation. "Ice piles by the dock ... There is nowhere/to find shelter,/to hide." In the final stanza, I find some resolution in imagining movement in this static place: "If I stay/I'll become stone/set, settled, unmoved/until the ice melts,/pushes me on."

Spring, of course, signals a release and the coming of warmer weather. After a long Cape winter, I wrote "May Poem." I had noticed my cat, our resident hunter, bringing home small birds and animals. In my poem, I write "In these spring days ... the light staying longer each night/I see the beginnings of things." Later, "she (the cat) fetches home small birds,/feathers carpeting/our front steps./Somehow life is richer/for these tiny killings." The presence of death amid the stirrings of life seemed poignant and true to the message of the poem.

For people on Cape Cod, summer is a time to glory in warmth and visits to the beach. Since we are so close to water, the images of swimmers and sunbathers are prominent ones. In my poem "The Art of Levitating (South Cape Beach, Mashpee)," I draw a portrait of a bather: "In between the swimmers/and far off, a lone sailboat or two,/is a man floating ..." I compare the act of floating in the water to that of levitating, slipping the bonds of earth's gravity.

Autumn brings deeper colors, more solemn tones in both images and themes. In a recent poem, "Wild Turkeys," I write "Autumn takes her/first hostage,/my delicate she-cat./No cry, no thrashing/in the underbrush." Again, the change in seasons alerts the poet to her sense of mortality, that need to capture life and one's experiences in words. In fact, the changing seasons can be a catalyst to creating fresh images.

Sometimes the seasons are out of whack. After Hurricane Bob hit the Cape in August 1991, the aftermath of the storm led to a second spring with trees and bushes sprouting new growth. One winter, we had unseasonably warm weather. This inspired me to write a poem called "A Cherry Tree Blossoms in January." I described the landscape as "a place out of time:/bears forget to hibernate,/birds land on the golf course,/
children dream fireworks/months early."

Writing poetry is always an adventure and using natural images can help to convey one's inner world. The poet can find universality by paying attention to the small, telling details of the world around her.

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