I always try to read a collection of poetry in April, since it's National Poetry Month here in the US. And how could I resist a book with April in the title? It was too perfect to pass up when I spotted this at the library earlier this month.
According to the foreword, Cather originally published a collection of poetry called April Twilights in 1903. She later revised and republished it. In this volume, you get the revised versions of those poems, and also a lot of unpublished poems and some early, uncollected poems she wrote before 1903. I actually liked more of those early poems than her later ones, as they were more playful and spontaneous. But I did like a great many of her poems -- I marked ten poems to re-read, altogether. They were "Shakespeare," "Bobby Shafto," "In the Garden," "Broncho Bill's Valedictory," "The Namesake," "Sonnet," "L'Envoi," "The Swedish Mother," "A Silver Cup," an "Remembering is Like a Crimson Rose."
Of those, I think "In the Garden" was my favorite. Certainly it was the most timely, as I read it only a day or two after Easter, and it concerns Mary Magdalene going to the tomb with spices to embalm Jesus' body, only to meet him alive there. Here's the middle verse, because it's so lovely:
She found Him in the garden,
Before the morning broke.
From out the night above the grave
He came -- ah, God! -- and spoke.
Walked as of old His garden,
Where sobbing night winds yearned,
Where trembling lilies waited
And pale narcissus burned.
The imagery there really struck me, the way she's naming flowers and talking about light and wind, using them to represent the emotions of Mary and the other believers.
Cather wrote about a wide range of subjects: immigrants, cowboys, children, the elderly, romance, grief, and so many other things. I think her finest poems were the ones where she spoke about life on the prairie and in the wilderness. Some of the others come off as affected attempts at what poetry "ought" to be like, and I'm guessing those are some of the ones she liked less when she got older.
This volume also collected many of Cather's letters that discussed poetry and writing. I didn't find them nearly as interesting as her poetry, but a fan of hers probably would enjoy them. I've been trying to like Cather for a long time, and I'm happy to say she's slowly growing on me.
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G. Nothing scandalous here.
This is my eight book read and reviewed for my second go-round at the Classics Club.
Happy Poetry Month!