Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 4, 2012

Yay, Poetry

I don’t put The Secret Garden on the syllabus for April just because of the season, but some students do enjoy reading on porches hearing robins. Crocuses and daffodils are in bloom. We discussed the novel and schools, libraries, and bookstores, since they just turned in papers about their observations in the field, so to speak. I then drove to Northampton, met my husband for a walk to the yarn shop, and headed to my daughter’s favorite restaurant. When I asked for seats for two at the India House, Alka said, “Meeting Miss Emily? She is so nice.”

“Sadly, no.” But I enjoyed catching up with my friend, Margaret. Then we walked past trees in white bloom to the Smith campus to hear Eaven Boland read and talk about growing up in Ireland, then a world in which woman and poet seemed in opposition. She spoke about the heroic tradition in Irish poetry, and how she tried to claim her subjects more within “the shadows and accidents” of one’s personal life. She read a poem about her mother filled with things from her kitchen, the sorts of beloved objects that change with time. She read a little about the influence of Sylvia Plath, one of Smith’s many famous alums, and Adrienne Rich, who died just days ago, from A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet.

She read more from Domestic Violence, showcasing moments that flicker from the past, that she sort of breathes on to heighten the flame. A bit of a story turns larger, so that those who seemed to escape history are no longer hidden: that’s what I love about her work.

It was dark when we left, and as Margaret and I walked down the paths, some students on clunky bicycles with big wire baskets wove around us. One young woman shouted to the other, “Yay, poetry!” Her sweet voice, her pedal-pumping feet, made me feel spring has really come.



  1. Gorgeous!! It seems you share a mission with Eaven Boland in shining the light on unknown figures.

    • It is inspiring to read someone who shares a passion, even if we go about it differently. I have to love most poems set in kitchens.

  2. Mmm, Indian food. And I love the “yay for poetry” shout. It just makes me happy to hear it.

    You know, I think I should reread the Secret Garden. For some reason, I didn’t much like it when I was a kid.

    • It’s so hilly around here that most bicyclists go for light bikes with lots of speeds, but I enjoy seeing some old bikes on the campuses, and felt this young woman was safe as safe could be even without a helmet in the dark, on campus paths, delighted with her evening.

      I may have to give you a gentle shove to that book, which I think you will love, Lorraine. It’s actually a better book for adults in many ways, not the least of it being that it doesn’t sag a bit in the middle: but the ending is worth it. Melodye is vowing to reread.. maybe I’ll have to write a nudging post! I think of both you and Melodye finding so much in that garden.

  3. Our crocuses and daffodils have long sinced croaked but I’m enjoying them all over again in your post. Yes, it’s the time for students (and any of us) to read The Secret Garden. And yes, April is the perfect month for poetry. I wonder who thought of that first?

    • Oh, good! We might have to have a Secret Garden Book Club! Trees are just budding here, that short, gorgeous time with pale green, while you can still through past to the horizon.

      The researcher in me wants to find out the origins of April and poetry (after T.S. Eliot called it the cruelest month, a counter-attack?). But I’m afraid that’s not only the researcher but procrastinator in me, so am heading toward more relevant work. So far..

  4. “Whan that Aprille with his shoures sooot…” or something (I know the spelling was weird, but this may not be it). Chaucer may have started it.
    I want to be in the Secret Garden Book Club. I really loved that book when I read it during a difficult time in my adult life. I’d like to reread it .

    • Chaucer spelled weird, didn’t he?

      Yay, for the Secret Garden Book Club. We’ve got you, Candice, Melodye, and I’m sure we can convince Lorraine, and already that’s bigger than most clubs I’ve been in!

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