Spring Drawing 2: My Favorite Poem About Spring

One poem by Robert Hass is currently my favorite one about spring. Some poetry lovers might think Hass is a bit of a cop-out; he’s one of nation’s best-loved poets. He served as Poet Laureate from 1995 to 1997 and his book Time and Materials won him both a Pulitzer and a National Book Award. While Hass is an obvious choice for anyone searching for beautiful biological and natural descriptions, his poems are more complicated than they seem at first.

Hass grew up in California, and his poetry is filled with brilliant descriptions of the San Francisco Bay area and the Sierra Mountains. He manages to discuss the art of nature without careening into sentimentality, but while still capturing its strange sacredness. “Spring Drawing 2” combines both Hass’s natural images with another technique he is known for: meta-poetry, or commenting on the process of creating poetry inside his poem.

In fact, the poem starts out with this sort of meta-commentary: “A man says lilacs against white houses, two sparrows, one streaked, in a / thinning birch, and can't find his way to a sentence.”

The poem goes on to relate a story of cooking a dinner with his friend, who is dedicated to making the meal in the style of his mother: with nothing, not even the shrimp shells or carrot tops, going to waste. In this way, Hass layers images on images, creating a sort of call and answer about usefulness, desire, and the freshness and savagery that seem to him to go hand in hand in spring.

I love this poem because these alternating motifs and images add depth and make it about more than just the newness of spring, which is, of course, a stumbling point of many “spring” poems. Spring, Hass seems to be saying, is beautiful, but also sad, because it is symbolic of all that has fallen away in the past year, all the unfulfilled promises and ambitions; the vibrant contrast of spring can only come from the darkness of winter.

Hass puts it beautifully in another line of meta-poetry:

“Suppose, before they said silver or moonlight or wet grass, each poet
had to agree to be responsible for the innocence of all the suffering on

because they learned in arithmetic, during the long school days, that if
there was anything left over

you had to carry it.”

The poem also contains a three-line image about a climbing rose that he has pruned badly. Because of the poor job he has done, it has shot out roses directly from the rootstalk, “among the pale pink floribunda.” This too is a simple and beautiful natural image, but it’s also an image of the fumblings the author has committed in previous years.

I would be grateful to have a pinky finger’s worth of Hass’s poetic talent, but until then I’ll content myself with reading more of his work and writing my own poems.


Gonzaga (2012)

Poetry Foundation (2012)

1 comment:

  1. hmmm those degree programs sound interesting twinzy...imishu.....blessed week....