It seems serendipitous that National Poetry Month coincides with the arrival of spring. Factor in my early spring birthday and you get a formula something like this: poetry + spring + one year older = corny emotional basket case.
Although it’s a priority of mine to keep poetry as a part of my daily life, I find it is also good—like a birthday—to celebrate it each year. National Poetry Month challenges me to take my love of poetry a bit deeper, to make an extra effort to tend this growing thing well. Whether that means committing to reading a poem every day, writing a poem every day, learning about the works of a particular poet, or sharing poems with others, each April I try to find some way to fertilize my poetry life.
This year, in my garden journal, I’ve decided to dedicate a section to poems about growing things. There is so much poetry to be found in the garden. And it’s not all sunshine and rosebuds. Every spring when time comes to weed my flower beds, the work of it nearly kills me. And every spring, in response to my complaints about the honest work of garden tending, my husband threatens to sow grass over all my lovely blooms. I believe him just enough to find the fortitude required to finish the job.
I have stirred ant armies, awakened the curled grub in her buried bed, inadvertently found the source of the poison ivy, and pried up stubborn roots of wild violets from beneath my butterfly bush. Every year, after bug bites, skin rashes, suffering amazingly obscure aches and pains, and consuming copious amounts of ibuprofen, I survey the work of my hands and dream a better way. I imagine planting miraculous ground covers to choke out the weeds, eye-catching perennials that require little attention, or even evergreens to lend a simpler style. Trouble is, I usually only get around to implementing a small portion of these dream-plantings, and they never quite work out as I hoped. Come the next spring, things are a little better, but—you guessed it—I’m still on my hands and knees far longer than I want to be.
But when the blooms unfold one-by-one and the garden becomes a thing of beauty? I know all that time and diligence and love for the soil was worth it.
Likewise, I try to fertilize the garden of my writing life through careful tending. This involves reading widely, of course. Not too long ago, I read this:
“As you start out in rough drafts, writing down stories as clearly as you can, there begins to burble up onto the page what’s exclusively yours both as a writer and a human being. If you trust the truth enough to keep unveiling yourself on the page—no matter how shameful those revelations may at first seem—the book will naturally structure itself to maximize what you’re best at. You’re best at it because it sits at the core of your passions.”
—Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir
I have never written a memoir, but it strikes me that these words may be aptly applied to poetry writing as well. And, for that matter, to life.
With each passing year we hammer out rough drafts—meticulously homing in on what is best to keep and what must be cast aside, letting what is “exclusively” ours “burble up” from the moments. And just as my garden takes shape over the long stretch of years, none of these seasons we sift through are ever perfected—it’s a constantly shifting landscape. But if we are true to the draft-writing—or draft living, in this case—we keep what is best and let go of the rest. The next season may be a little better for the pruning, but chances are, it will still have its fair share of bending and tending to push through.
Like a carefully crafted poem that takes shape with each new draft, like a garden tended lovingly over the years, what if I could think of each season of life as a rough draft, “trusting in the truth enough to keep unveiling” myself, to keep growing and learning and reaching for more? Letting time and diligence and love shape something that becomes more beautiful with each passing year.
Happy National Poetry Month, dear readers. Let’s have a garden party.
you under last
dandelion roots, woven
through with sweet
you in summer
you awake again,
hold you, flowering,
in my mind. Oh,
shoot of green,
will you become?
Photo by Ivan, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Laura Boggess, Tweetspeak Poetry’s 2021 Poet Laura.
A Novella From Laura Boggess
Lyrical and whimsical writer Laura Boggess brings us an inspiring story of one woman’s quest to put her life back together. Poetry plays a part. But not before a book gets delivered to the wrong house on a windy, impossible day.