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April 2019

The reverdie is an old French poetic genre. It originated with troubadour ballads of the early Middle Ages and so many of them were song lyrics. They are usually about the arrival of spring. The word "reverdie" translates as "re-greening." There are some traditions in those old poems and lyrics, such as addressing spring as a beautiful woman. Reverdies were often dancing songs and were popular during the time of Chaucer.

The Middle English reverdie that begins "Svmer is icumen in/ Lhude sing cuccu" can be translated as "Summer has arrived / Sing loudly, cuckoo! /The seed is growing / And the meadow is blooming /And the wood is coming into leaf now / Sing, cuckoo!" This "Cuckoo Song" is one I always find odd because it says that summer is coming and yet all the images seem to be of spring.

There are many, perhaps too many, poems about spring. In lists of them, you will find Eliot's "The Waste Land." I like Eliot's poetry, but his images of spring are pretty grim. The poem's first section is subtitled "The Burial of the Dead" and its opening is often quoted:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Spring and All is a volume of poems by William Carlos Williams and the section we consider for this prompt is "By the road to the contagious hospital" - which also sounds pretty grim.

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

The landscape is "Lifeless in appearance" but Williams knows that "sluggish dazed spring approaches" and the poem is more optimistic in this very early spring.

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind- Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wild carrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf...
Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken

E. E. Cummings describes Spring as being
like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and
changing everything carefully

What we asked poets to do this month was to write a reverdie about the arrival of spring but - and this is not easy - try to say something that has not been said about spring by poets before.

In "Spring Snow" by Arthur Sze, I see a picture of the spring around me currently - a mix of winter and summer that has not been well blended.

A spring snow coincides with plum blossoms.
In a month, you will forget, then remember

what I like about the poem is the unexpected images that follow in his reverdie. Snow and plum blossoms seem like a wrong coincidence, but it occurs in haiku fairly often, But he follows with several images of that odd mix.

when nine ravens perched in the elm sway in wind.

I will remember when I brake to a stop,
and a hubcap rolls through the intersection

In "National Poetry Month" the poem speaks by itself, according to Elaine Equi. The poem mentions April, but can you find the spring within it?

Sometimes the poem weaves
like a basket around
two loaves of yellow bread.

“Break off a piece
of this April with its
raisin nipples," it says.

“And chew them slowly
under your pillow.
You belong in bed with me.”

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


It’s April and still we deal with winter –
oaks fallen in storm on our hill.
A grand old live-oak of how many summers
took three smaller trees with it when it crashed
without our hearing. Now, the trunks cut
into rounds for splitting into cordwood,
we attack the slash-piles. You wield the saw,
I’ve got nippers and loppers, dragging
small limbs from the pile, reducing them
to tinder and kindling. But look
what all this dismantling has exposed:
five turkey eggs hidden under slash.
In a week, the hen will have laid her quota
and started incubating – a full moon cycle
for turkey eggs to hatch. Winter’s pile
has been conscripted to the rites of spring.
Carefully I replace small branches
to obscure the nest. We’ll do spring cleanup
somewhere else.

Taylor Graham


I am napping when the doorbell rings
Unwind arthritic bones and growl my way
Toward a shadowed silhouette
Obscured by windowed Irish lace
A front door flag, still on display
Long after Grandma's much too early death

Still half asleep, I yank the aging door
And, after all these years, am stunned
You stand there with your dirty face
Your matted yellow hair, your piercing eyes
A force of Nature, too beautiful to hide
Beneath disheveled jeans, boots caked with mud

Even this old nose can smell the musk
Matted leaves, still moist with melting snow
The hint of breasts beneath a rumpled shirt
More tease than promise, sharp ache of memory
When I was green and you were young
When backbreaking work disguised itself as Fun

Your old Volkswagen bus sits in the lane
Awash with daisies painted on its flanks
You toss your pretty head in its direction
Inviting me to join you for a ride
Your snowdrop smile
Brings long dead grass alive

Spring was our season from the start
A hibernating World, awake at last
Hungry with hope, bursting with promise
We were magic wands behind the plough
Planting small tomorrows in neat rows
Tending them with care, willing them to grow

Now you are here, in spite of being gone
A willful daughter's child, half-civilized, half-wild
And I am bent, near blind, yet still alive
Frozen heart warmed by your memory
Soul, ready for a heady breath
Of Spring

Frank Kelly


An unusually warm April day sends me out to my sprouting garden.
Tips of bulb probes. Tiny leaves opening on some plants.
I clean out autumn leaves, disturbing some insects hiding beneath.
But when I take a break with my teacup in the uncovered lounge chair,
the sun doesn't make me sprout.
My eyes close and I drift back to winter under a solar blanket.
When I wake up my tea is cold. A robin is tossing leaves to find food.
The next day turns back to winter too. A cold night. Light frost.
I look out the window and wish I had left the leaves covering the new green.
Waking too early is never a good plan. We all need our rest.

Pamela Milne


Now the winter - though not always its weather - is officially over
And so with the early crocuses and tulips-to-be and patches of sunny daffodils
The task at hand lies before me
Not of mulch and fertilizer, potting and re-potting
For we no longer have the house with its front lawn and yard to tend
But rather closets and drawers that cry out for pruning and turning over
I tell myself I will put aside a whole morning to tackle the beasts
Overgrown with boots and bulk, receipts and cards - received and unsent
And which I cannot part - like the old flower that grew out front
And we, irritated by its yearly return and stand-alone attitude
Like fools, tried to pull up - but in the end it won out and I’m glad it did
For it has become my favorite bloom - full and joyous and ridiculously
over the top
No rose compares to the peony
I start with the underwear drawer - do I put the plaid and dark solid
ones in the back now?
And move the florals and pastels to the front? What about the ones
with the snowflakes?
How could I possibly wear those now? Hah! Who am I kidding?
Too many decisions; I shove them all back in the drawer; I just cannot
do this, no, not today
I open and close the door to the dark hole that serves as clothes
closet and random repository --
Bath tiles and pillows, flattened shoes and stacks of books, crushed
gift wrap and half-priced holiday cards
And unseen but no doubt there – the dust bunnies beneath it all - yet
all I take away are thoughts of rabbits
And the one we had when my daughter was very young
Beatrice- a sweet brown nipper whom we purchased under the belief she
was a dwarf bunny
But who grew larger than expected despite a taste for wires and sofa upholstery
I reach into the closet and pull out a box with pictures of Easters past
My sister and I in navy coats, white tambourine shaped hats, frilly
socks and patent shoes
Snapshots of a shared past - for there are still those with whom these
moments can be remembered
When mom took photos with her little gray camera to later have film or
slides developed
She had a projector and screen and slideshows long before the fun that
is not PowerPoint
She did not save our baby clothes, teeth or toys but she documented
our childhood in images
When we were yet to be who we were to become and those around us
seemed permanent
I sit still on the floor - perhaps it is spring more than New Years
that gets us to thinking
Not just where we are in the world and where we’ve been but who we are
And whether we clear away, no matter how painstaking, what no longer suits us
In favor of those things that lie tangled, trodden, and stunted -
beneath un-sown layers
Of gifts unharvested and a life unknown

Terri J. Guttilla


If I move south of the Equator,
this vernal equinox becomes autumnal.
Your reverdie becomes sings another season.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
may be the Bard's lines for Fall, but here
yellow leaves, few, still hang, waiting for new
leaves to push them to the ground.

Lianna Wright


Gorgeous gulf coast April weather

Fills us with its grace and glory.

Even cloudy afternoons cannot suppress it—
Bird songs, green shoots, and blossoms erupt.

We walk our dogs Oliver and Gus--
They put their noses into the breeze.

Along the water’s edge wildlife commands
Their attention—turtles, herons, egrets.

Earlier four-footed travelers along this trail have left
Complicated pee-mail messages, buried in the grasses.

As we walk, we make our spring Thanksgiving
For this glorious interlude, and its quiet respite

From sweltering summers, interminable gray winters,
And the long, humid, flood-ravaged Harvey days….

Michael McFarland


Our love is the growth of our surrounding.
You can see our pets running around
And rolling onto the ground
Like squirming bees buzzing through the field
Searching for pollen.

The greenery background of our vast backyard
Surrounded by newly put-up white fences with
Muddy base where the rain washes once a week
For the whole term of spring.

The kids are laughing in the front
waving their hands signaling
the earthen ground to shake.
Dirt flying everywhere
To the left to the right.

Should we worry for earthquakes?
No, it is only joy of little hands shaking
Covering in mud from the pond
That formed after yesterday rains.

The patch of fallen, dried petals
No longer can be seen, except
For the little roots on the ground
Where those petals used to stand..
Flowers bloom showing their variety of
Colors, shapes, and scents.

Time for our vegetables to be sprouting
And harvesting to be done.
Farm works aren’t easy
Like life is filled with joy and suffering.

Smiles appear on our faces today
As when we were newly-weds.
Nothing is more important than this moment.
We know it won’t last forever, but cherish this feeling
Once a year for the duration of spring,
The month of growth and laughter.

Hand in hand, shall the daisies grow.
Hand in hand, shall our kids laugh.
Hand in hand, let us grow old and anew together.
Hand in hand, shall spring last forever in our heart.
Hand in hand, shall we live another day forward.

Bill T. Vue


Winter’s creeping cold
still pierces
spring’s feeble efforts.
Holds on to dampening shrouds
crushing unborn hopes
of daylights lengthening.

An ancient struggle,
as fertile soil nourishes
verdant infant shoots,
growing snowdrops
pristine white against dark earth.

Birds seduce in fluttered song,
defiantly perched on naked branches,
waiting for the thickening greenery
to hide their nests from view.

Slowly tepid rays from a watery sun
will strengthen, to warm frosted soil.
Blossom and buds ready to show
spring’s cacophony of colour
as winter slowly fades.

Jackie Darnbrough


After the yellow rain
has covered every inch
of patios, tables, pools,
cars and flows in rivers
down streets after showers,
the Azaleas droop and
fall, littering the ground
like careless passersby,
then catkins blanket roads
and driveways, crunching
underfoot, clogging gutters
and drains like rat’s nests,
sticking to shoes and cat’s fur,
trailing through the house,
as last year’s gum balls
lay mines on bike paths and
pepper the ground like hail
with every breeze in an
endless spring offensive.

Squirrels scamper, cardinals
chase each other, children
sit in fields of bluebonnets,
and everywhere life screams
its abundance as people wear
masks and ac’s begin to whine.

Robert Miller