As spring comes into its full, glorious own here in the Pacific Northwest, I discovered a wonderful spring poem I had never read before.
Mary Karr posted a short poem by Philip Larkin last week on her Facebook page. In one of those interesting coincidences, I had just been encouraged to look into Larkin by my literary friend and colleague, Mark Neigh.
(You know how you discover a new word one day, and then you see it and hear it all around you the next? It was sort of like I was surrounded by Larkin all of a sudden.)
I already had Larkin’s “Collected Poems” on my bookshelf, but hadn’t read much in it. I’d never been much impressed by what little I had read of Larkin, but his spring poem really hit home. I must never have given him a proper chance. Or the timing wasn’t right.
Here it is, just 12 short, beautiful lines:
by Philip Larkin
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too.
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.
You can listen to Larkin read this poem here. (It just sounds better when he reads it.) This small gem gives me hope that I’ll find other poems that speak to me in Larkin’s work.