Poetry Classroom: Meteorology

Welcome to this month’s poetry classroom, with poet and professor Marjorie Maddox. We invite you to respond to the poems we’ll share here—their forms, images, sounds, meanings, surprises—ask questions of Marjorie and each other, and write your own poems along the way.


All day the skies pour, then threaten, then pour again,
making good their promise of gloom,

a comfort really, that what looms eventually crashes down,
rains itself out, or not completely, intent on furthering

its pessimistic forecasts.
Still, there’s relief in reliability,

that what each cloud coughs up
gathers and builds on the eyes’ horizon,

expectations deepening
with each darkening hue.

And so I crave even the low, rumbling
of our longest-forming sorrows,

the truths of all predictions moving past
updraft to downburst to calm.

Photo by Walt Stoneburner. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Poem by Marjorie Maddox, author of the upcoming poetry collection ‘Local News From Someplace Else’


Discussion Questions:

1. The poem asserts, “there’s relief in reliability.” Is there any way in which the poem itself provides such reliability or relief? Do you think it should?

2. What if the poet had titled the poem, “Weather”? Would anything have been lost, gained?

3. Have you ever craved a sorrow? Can you relate to the poem narrator’s reason for doing so?


  1. says

    1) Yes, the poem captures what I love about a good downpour.

    2) The theme of reliability would have been lost. Weather is unpredictable.

    3) When I’m blue, I crave rainy days. Not sure if I crave sorrow or for my setting to reflect my mood. Perhaps it’s the same thing.

  2. says


    Yes, isn’t there something about any kind of storm (physical or emotional)that is paradoxical? While the storm itself is difficult, there’s a type of hope in knowing that when pressures build and build, there must—eventually—be some kind of release. Do you also find that to be true? I tried to include some of this tension in the poem.

  3. says

    Absolutely find it to be true. The pressures of life “build and build,” and we need “some kind of release.”

    The tension is there with “threaten,” “crashes down.” But “darkening hue,” and “rumbling,” soothe, which works because you show tension and comfort.

    Nice job!

  4. says

    1. I am reading this multiple times, and I feel, hear or taste relief in the last word – calm. But I don’t think the poem should provide relief. I hear patterns of storms and sorrow which indicate there are beginnings and endings to the thunderous skies. Maybe, therein lies the relief. The nature of cycles. Once the ‘bad’ weather is spent there is a sense of peace.

    2. Weather as a title wouldn’t have indicated the intent or heart of the poem. metereology indicates predicting patterns. This is more about expectations, experience and cycles/patterns.

    3. Yes,yes the craving for a ‘good cry” comes from the need to expel pent up emotion.

    this is masterful. I love it.

    • says

      Exactly, sometimes the hope or relief is in recognizing the cleansing sense of pattern. There is an ending. There is a new beginning. Of course, just like weather, life can get much more complicated than that, can’t it?

      Yes, I think the key lies in trying to predict the patterns, with emphasis often on the word “trying.”

  5. says

    I often find inspiration in weather, so I really like this poem. The forecasting of the weather–meteorology–is about looking for reliability even in the midst of unpredictability. For example, we just had hail in May. May is hail month. The specific hailstorm was a surprise, along with the size of the hail, but it happened in the proper month. Not, like, November.

    • says

      Weather IS very inspiring. Maybe because it’s so universal and personal at the same time. I was even thinking how this sense of “building and building” is also a lot like writing poetry–in a good way. Sometimes the ideas keep gathering (like storm clouds)and it takes a lot of such “gathering” before the ideas or images “rain down” into a poem. Has anyone else had that experience? This is why I think we as writers are always writing, even when we are not necessarily putting fingers to keyboard. The ideas may be “building and building,” waiting for that wonderful downpour that will–eventually–arrive.

  6. says

    Wow, it’s amazing that this perfectly describes the weather we’ve had in southern Nigeria Today.
    1. The poem attempts to provide some reliability, there is symmetry between the longer stanzas and another between the shorter ones.
    Reliable or not, it would still be appripriate for a subject as whimsical as the weather.

    2.Weather pales beside the dynamic ‘Meterology’.
    3.I am more aware of craving a release from the sorrow. An outpouring that as tears, relieves…

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Ms Maddox

    • says

      Thank you. And why not try to write about the similarity in storms on any given day in Nigeria and Pennsylvania, my current location?

      I also love your phrase “whimsical as weather.” It would be fun to write an entire poem personifying weather as “whimsical.” Give it a try.

  7. says

    I’ve been thinking about ideas “gathering” lately. A friend asked me if I constantly think in terms of poems, if I look around and find inspiration. I told her I do not, that I can only write when I am at home, without my family, coffee and chocolate in hand. However, there must be some subconscious work going on for me to even get to that point, like the unseen work of evaporation and other weather cycles. I can feel guilty when I don’t put pen to paper or fingers to keys. The question is, can we assume the ideas are building just by living our lives? Or can we arrange our lives in ways to increase the gathering poetry storm?

    • says

      I would say that there is a lot of subconscious writing going on–“gathering”–but that, yes, there are certainly ways we can arrange our lives to increase, as you say, “the gathering poetry storm.” I know that, before kids, I got a lot of writing done even with a heavy teaching load. Since having children, I get very little written at home during the academic year. (I know, I know, I’ve read lots of testimonials about authors getting up at 3:00 am to write before children awake, but I never mastered such a routine.) However, I’ve also found I get just as much written for the entire year; it’s as if I’ve been writing subconsciously, but everything doesn’t actually end up on paper until those recesses from teaching.

      On another note, like you, I really crave an empty house, partly because I compose out loud and partly because a house full of children often equals necessary interruptions. Nevertheless, I can work very productively in a bustling atmosphere, but the key is it has to be a place where I am anonymous, a place like an airport or a coffee shop, a place where nobody “needs me” at any given moment.

      Isn’t it interesting how we all have our patterns of/rituals for writing? What works best for others?


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