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The Four Seasons: Poems written by J. D. McClatchy

 

The Four Seasons: Poems written by J. D. McClatchy

Overview:

For the poet, even the most minute details of the natural world are starting points for flights of the imagination, and the pages of this collection celebrating the four seasons are brimming with an extraordinary range of observation and imagery. 

Here are poets past and present, from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Wordsworth to Whitman, Dickinson, and Thoreau, from Keats, Blake, and Hopkins to Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, Amy Clampitt, Mary Oliver, and W. S. Merwin. Here are poems that speak of the seasons as measures of earthly time or as states of mind or as the physical expressions of the ineffable. From Robert Frost’s tribute to the evanescence of spring in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” to Langston Hughes’s moody “Summer Night” in Harlem, from the “stopped woods” in Marie Ponsot’s “End of October” to the chilling “mind of winter” in Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man,” the poems in this volume engage vividly with the seasons and, through them, with the ways in which we understand and engage the world outside ourselves.

Synopsis:

For the poet, even the most minute details of the natural world are starting points for flights of the imagination, and the pages of this collection celebrating the four seasons are brimming with an extraordinary range of observation and imagery. 

Here are poets past and present, from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Wordsworth to Whitman, Dickinson, and Thoreau, from Keats, Blake, and Hopkins to Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, Amy Clampitt, Mary Oliver, and W. S. Merwin. Here are poems that speak of the seasons as measures of earthly time or as states of mind or as the physical expressions of the ineffable. From Robert Frost’s tribute to the evanescence of spring in “Nothing Gold Can Stay” to Langston Hughes’s moody “Summer Night” in Harlem, from the “stopped woods” in Marie Ponsot’s “End of October” to the chilling “mind of winter” in Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man,” the poems in this volume engage vividly with the seasons and, through them, with the ways in which we understand and engage the world outside ourselves.

Excerpt:

FROM THE INTRODUCTION

The seasons are both segments of time and states of mind. Though ourword ‘‘season’’ derives from the Latin for ‘‘sowing’’ and refers thereby only to spring, every culture has had terms – whether winter and summer, or rainy and dry – for the sequence of great climatic changes by which the world transforms itself every year. But it’s more than what is going on outside. Our hearts have seasons as well. Mostly, we call them moods, and we lay our plans by their accustomed recurrences. We recall the crucial moments in our lives by the weather that still swirls around them in memory. Weddings and family reunions, getaways and homecomings are most often scheduled by the season. Yes, we have urgent appointments and traditional holidays, our deadlines and habits. But our bodies and their tides of desire seem to move more slowly, and are governed by the larger, more dramatic and decisive movements of the sun itself – the arrival of light and the opulence of warmth, then their slow fading and cold withdrawal. Aren’t, in fact, the seasons like the stages of a love affair?

This is where the poets come in. They are enthusiasts and brooders. Love and death are their stock-in-trade. But first of all, they are observers. A strong imagination begins with a keen eye. The poet is interested in both the detail and the scheme, in both the streak on the tulip and the nature of beauty which the flower represents. This is why the seasons have, down the centuries, had a special appeal for poets. (It’s interesting though obvious to note that modern poets from England and especially from New England, where weather patterns are more extreme, are more likely to write about the seasons than poets from more steadily temperate parts.) This book is a virtual anthology of small details, because the seasons invite us to catalogue the terms of our love for the world. It takes hours of observation to get the tiniest half-line right that describes, say, the precise shade of a bird’s wing in flight. And such details are then the starting-point of metaphor. We can’t see anything exactly as it is unless we first see it as something else.

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Title: The Four Seasons: Poems

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