March 20, 1998
In celebration of the first day of Spring, U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky recites poems by Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
Other poems read by Robert Pinsky.
ROBERT PINSKY, Poet Laureate: There's a tradition of celebrating springtime and maybe encouraging the springtime to get going with a poem. Two great American poets, Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams, have written memorable poems for the very beginning of spring: These chilly, moist days when the vegetation seems just beginning to stir. Here's Robert Frost's poem "Spring Pools".
These pools that, though in forests, still reflect
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods --
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.
And William Carlos Williams, in the first section of his sequence, "Spring and All," captures this time of year when the twiggy, forked vegetation can't be distinguished, one plant from another, because the plants haven't put out leaves yet. His language, reddish, purplish, twiggy stuff, he calls the plants, is language that has some of the same familiar intimacy of Frost, saying, "Let them think twice."
Also, I think you can tell that Williams is looking at this stuff from a car as he drives by, the 20th century American looking at nature as he drives by.
Williams Carlos Williams
Spring and All
By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
modeled clouds driven from the
northeast-- a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees
All along the road, reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches--
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind--
Now, the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined--
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of
entrance--Still the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken.