Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"April Twilights and Other Poems" by Willa Cather

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  In this volume, you get the revised versions of those poems, and also a lot of unpublished poems and some early, uncollected poems she wrote before 1903.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!


  1. This looks good! I WILL have to try it!!

    For NPM, I have been trying to write a poem everyday. I have done it so far, but let's just say I am not the best poet.

    1. MovieCritic, I hope you enjoy it if you find a copy! I am very impressed that you're writing a poem every day this month. Even if you decide they're not that good, what a great exercise!

  2. I love the verse from The Garden you shared, Hamlette... What a gifted author Cather was... I read her My Antonia and was taken with her writing...such an interesting book indeed! {{smiles}} By the way, just wanted to let you know...a sweet package made it to me! Thank you SO much...I love my Jane Austen inspired bookmarks...can't wait to colour and use them! Thanks a bunch!
    Have a wonderful week further...always lovely to stop by!

    1. Kelly-Anne, I'm so glad you enjoyed it :-) And hooray! Your bookmarks arrived at last! I hope you have lots of fun coloring and using them :-) You're most welcome!

  3. This sounds lovely. I've never read Cather, beyond a short story once in college. I do have several of her titles in my sights...

    Also, I tagged you for a classics book tag. No pressure intended. I just thought you might like it. :)

    1. I'm not having luck with linking today! Here it is: https://tobeginwithireadjaneeyre.wordpress.com/2017/04/27/the-classics-book-tag/

    2. Jillian, I've been meaning to read her Death Comes for the Archbishop for over a decade now. Hoping I get to it in this go-round of the Classics Club.

      Thanks for the tag! I will go check that out right now :-)


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