Honoring National Poetry Month

We had a great gathering April 9 in Winston-Salem at A Gathering of Poets - put it on your calendar for the first weekend in April 2012!

It's a third of the way through National Poetry Month, and it seems the reminders are everywhere. This morning, with the air heavy from last night's rain, is also thick with the perfume of wisteria, iris, and from a neighbor's yard, old-fashioned lilacs. These don't grow so well here in the South, not like the magnificent tree that swelled at the back corner of my grandparents' house in Little Valley, but the perfume is the same.

I never could decide the difference between Persian lilacs and French lilacs, but I know the ones I have in mind, a magnificent light purple fading toward blue, for me the color and scent of death, seductive and sad. These were heavy blooms, toppling the branches on wet days. We broke them from the trees and massed them in Mason jars for the gravesites in spring. And so in grief I hear Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” -

In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,

Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,

With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,

With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,

A sprig with its flower I break.

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