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October 2012

It is hard to read poetry without occasionally coming across a poem about one of the seasons. If you read haiku, you know that the seasons enter almost all haiku written in a traditional way. If you have been writing poetry for a few years, you probably have a few poems about seasons. So, it would be easy enough for poets to dig into their poetry collection and come up with a poem about one of the seasons.

Right now, in the Northern Hemisphere, we are in early autumn and so you may be inspired to write about what you see in the season.

You could create quite a thick anthology just collecting poems on autumn. And the collection would include traditional takes on this season "When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang / Upon those boughs which shake against the cold" as Shakespeare writes in Sonnet LXXIII.

There are certain literary associations to the seasons, as in this short poem,"November Night," by Adelaide Crapsey.

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall. Some of these associations have become clichés - such as, the Old Man Winter of old age, dying and death and the rebirth of spring.

I prefer poems that use the season as setting but go somewhere that I have not been in that season. In "My Autumn Leaves" by Bruce Weigl the poet starts with a familiar place and familiar seasonal props like deer and apples, and then departs to encounter a younger self who still has not left him.

That departure was what appealed to me in reading "Another Autumn" by Adele Kenny from her collection, What Matters3. It is the model poem for our current writing prompt for October.

Like Weigel, she uses some of the familiars of the season - leaf-rot, chrysanthemums, chilling air and gaunt roses - but they are contrasted with a hidden passion of "sweat, and the smell of it" that leads us to a place where "trees on fire" are not just fall foliage.

On Adele's own blog, she offers a range of writing prompts from playing with form (such as in writing an "adeleanelle") and her own approach to what autumn brings.

And our own prompt this month? We will not limit ourselves to autumn. The prompt is to write a poem that uses all four seasons. For example, you might take a place, a person or a situation through the seasons as a way of contrasting changes. You could take alternative views on those seasonal clichés. (Think of T.S. Eliot's view of spring/April as "the cruelest month" rather than a time of rebirth.) 

You may also be interested in reading an earlier version of Adele Kenny's poem "Another Autumn" to contrast it with the version published in What Matters which we used as the model this month.

For more on this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.


They met each day at the ancient oak,
lay kissing in its embrace,
April unfurled the jigsaw leaves
and he stroked her lovely face,

‘Will our love last the Spring?’ the young girl asked.
He answered with a smile.

They felt the quickening of the heart
that novice lovers feel,
August warmed their house of oak,
they longed to make it real.

‘Will our love last the summer?’ the young girt asked.
He answered with a kiss.

October blew the leaves away,
whirlwinds spread them wide,
They held each other tighter yet
as the great oak branches sighed.

‘Will our love last the Autumn?’ the young girl asked
He answered with a ring.

Snow cloaked their bodies,
their warm blood froze,
together forever,
food for the crows.

‘Where are the lovers?’ the oak tree asked.
The answer flowed through its roots.

Vivien Jones


For her, spring was full
of every hue imaginable
wrapped up in the magic

and innocence of youth.
Then the summer sun
tinted her dreams with

gold and shadow,
marriage and motherhood,
responsibility, love and loss.

In early autumn
she gathered together
all the colors of her life

and tossed them up
as high as they would go.

After watching them
flutter like butterflies
back to the soft earth,

she picked one bright
piece of yellow from the
confetti at her feet

and made her choice.
Then, with her ticket

safely tucked into the
back pocket of her jeans,
she embraced the winter

of her life, that grand
paradox of endings
and fresh beginnings,

packed her things
and moved to Texas.

Maddison Ross


Autumn. Hurricane season.
A quiet Halloween—building children trick or treating, the Village parade on tv,
Finishing my book on John Adams.
For some all changed by Sandy. No parade. No reading. No light. No children.
For lucky me, hurricane news on tv.

Summer. Stay in the country.
Wooded retreat in an air conditioned cabin.
Water color painting.
Silk painting.
Meals with friends I haven't seen for a year.

Spring. An Israeli wedding.
My nephew takes what could have been the girl next door—she has family from NJ--
As his bride. I stay with relatives and friends of relatives.
Joy. No sense of coming doom. Is it ignorance or bliss?
A peaceful seeming nation except for 20 year olds walking fully armed.

Winter. Escape to South America.
My tour to Chile, Argentina and Brazil marked a
Beginning of travel after 4 years of illness.
Excitement, increasing strength, needing a little help on longer walks.
For lucky me, part of the of the world again.

Ellen Kaplan


These crocuses have bloomed
three weeks after their brethren.
Perhaps it was the shade
of the fence that they follow,
but they decided not
to send their yellow,
white and purple springness
up along with the others.
It was not that the season was late.
The other plants followed the plan.
Late bloomers.
It's a name my father hung sarcastically
upon people who had failed
for most of their lives. My mother was gentler.
Those who spent spring and summer to find
their autumn burst of color.
Like some crocuses,
whose flowers are just as beautiful,
maybe even more so because they are not
lost in the blanket of other crocuses.
In that other season, a winter harvest of many poems
by Frost, Williams and Stevens
written after age fifty. Good solid blooms
from deep-buried bulbs, tiny organic engines
of language nature-tuned seeking the sun
and singing a new and ancient song.

Kenneth Ronkowitz


Nobs, nabobs and nerds too gather at this nightfall,
To celebrate this never ending novelty.
There is no nap in this night long,
There is neither normative nor nix,
There will be no note cards either,
Number crunching in this nocturnal is a total nonsense.
Cops stop the nefarious and nettlesome,
For others they become negligent.
People forget about
The nadirs and nags of the past,
Nunnery children with natty dresses,
Go nuts in this nonce.
Every nook of the niche,
Gets going with the night owls,
Together they put hands,
As the ngoma attains its nudge.
“New-year” the beginning of the year (Era)
The nonet plays the nocturne,
Prayers sung at the nave,
The nougats and narcissus exchanged,
Sky gets decorated by northern ‘lights and nimbus.
The noughties has finally ended,
We have ‘nother starting now-now,
Every second of mine will be yours,
Every minute of mine will be yours,
Every hour and day of mine will be yours,
The nub here is “never say never”,
And things will change from no-where to now-here.

Kalaiarason Santhanathan


There will be a leaf drive this fall,
relaxed and unhurried, with

no frantic questions regarding a map,
no sudden disappearance into the woods,
no anxious schedule to follow.

But there will be other things --

Frost on the windshield.
Brilliant leaves, red and yellow.
Warm sweaters and hot chocolate.
Uncharted paths to explore --

with nothing to block the view.

Bobbie Townsend


It is autumn on campus and the colors are all earth and leaf tones
and it smells like football and sweaters and newly-washed hair
that blows in a cool wind and it is new textbooks
and fresh pages of notes about novels
that have been written by others many times before
but are still new again in this new season.
Winter sends the students indoors
and the library is crowded at exam period.
They watch the snow begin to fall and think
about those weeks of break from study.
A new year and they return to still winter
but they are already in their false spring semester season
and on those first warm days there will be shorts and sexy tops,
sandals and flip-flops and open dorm windows
that become speakers for music and students sprawl
on any patch of grass pretending to read and study
as they watch each other and breathe in the pollen and feel
the push of energy up from the earth that makes all of them dizzy.
It carries them on the warm breeze with the pink and white petals
across campus and into summer
when there are more tourists than students on campus
and even the lecture halls close their eyes and dream about September.

Pamela Milne


I run my puppy on the trail. Here's Kyle's
ball-cap, full of the scent of 15-year-old.
Here's where Kyle passed through the gate,
into Saturday-deserted playground.
Deserted except for weeks of grade-schoolers'
leftover scent caught in October grass
and shrubbery, cracks in pavement.

My pup's a whiz at this. She pulls me
down stone steps, past the fourth-grade
garden that was lush with squash and holly-
hock in August, brittle now; past
the planetary lookout where kids sat
bundled for December, eyes heavenward,
looking for a Christmas star; along the nature-
trail where I like to walk in every season
(“it isn't spring till snow is on the dogwood”);
across basketball courts where wind
shoots hoops with falling oak leaves;
across a gravel path; and here's Kyle,
waiting to be found. A biscuit for my pup,
and lots of pats and praise.

But don't forget: I worked the old dog
first - old partner with nine years
of seasons running trails. Old trooper spry
with the joy of his every season.

Taylor Graham


My first years teaching,
Whenever we read a piece of literature with Biblical allusions,
Like “The Gift of the Magi”
I could count on the fundamentalist students
To have a cursory knowledge of Christianity.

But the years passed,
And soon I was teaching the children of my first students.
Now, even those who called themselves born-again,
Were as ignorant of Scripture as Catholics.

So I found it necessary to teach the background of holidays,
Not as faith-- after all, this was public education,
But as the world literature every educated person should know.

On Halloween, I explained how the early pagans believed
That in mid-fall, their unwanted dead returned to life,
And so they wore grotesque masks to frighten the cowardly ghosts back where they belonged;
Catholics turned this into All Saints Day,
A time to idolize the gruesome martyrs of the faith,
Like the slow burning of St. Lawrence
Or the flaying alive of St. Bartholomew,
Stories one of the football players said he’d scare his friends with,
When they were drinking after the game around a classmate’s grave.
At Christmas, when the days were short and dark,
I explained the Nativity story,
And how the animals in the stable were pagan symbols,
The bull representing Zeus and the donkey Osiris
Breathing upon the Christ child to keep him warm,
Passing their souls to the new god;
Which somehow led to a story about a house party the year before,
Where the parents had gone to Vegas, leaving their seventeen year old alone,
How the cops came and arrested the cheerleader co-captains
Who were drunk on the front lawn, half-clothed in their uniforms,
Ripping each other’s hair,
And stuffing new-fallen snow in each other’s face.

As Easter approached, I explained
That it was always the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring,
That the eggs and bunnies were pagan symbols of rebirth;
And that Medieval peasants fasted for the forty days of Lent,
In preparation for Christ’s Bloody Passion and his Resurrection,
In the belief that he had gained them eternal life.
But to my students, the long weekend meant a planned keg party
While watching March Madness.

At the end of the year, as the summer heat was just beginning,
And the prom approached with its long-anticipated weekend of drink and sex,
One of the brighter kids asked if there were any Biblical stories that went along with this.
I said I couldn’t think of any.
To which he replied, “It’s good to know that religion hasn’t corrupted everything.”

Ron Yazinski