Thursday, 10 January 2013

Not Writing White

On the shelves of my trusty local Oxfam, I recently found an anthology called Heaven On Earth. Compiled by Wendy Cope, this is a collection of '101 Happy Poems'. They range across time from ancient China to the present day, with a weighting towards the contemporary. Some poems are familiar, others obscure, some not obviously happy, but all work towards Cope's stated aim of disproving the received wisdom that 'happiness writes white', that the emotion cannot convincingly be conveyed in the written word.
Naturally Richard Wilbur - a poet who (in Randall Jarrell's words) 'sees, and shows, the bright  underside of every dark thing' - is represented in Heaven On Earth, with 'April 5, 1974'. As the long remainder of winter stretches before us, Russian cold heads our way and spring seems impossibly far off, it's one to lift the heart and remind us that the great transformation will surely come, hopefully before Wilbur's date. It also has a quite wonderful ending...

April 5, 1974

The air was soft, the ground still cold.
In the dull pasture where I strolled
Was something I could not believe.
Dead grass appeared to slide and heave,
Though still too frozen-flat to stir,
And rocks to twitch, and all to blur.
What was this rippling of the land?
Was matter getting out of hand
And making free with natural law?
I stopped and blinked, and then I saw
A fact as eerie as a dream,
There was a subtle flood of steam
Moving upon the face of things.
It came from standing pools and springs
And what of snow was still around;
It came of winter's giving ground
So that the freeze was coming out,
As when a set mind, blessed by doubt,
Relaxes into mother-wit.
Flowers, I said, will come of it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a bright moment. ~ D / CA