Whistle far and wee

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

April and poetry are made of the same stuff: promise "recollected in tranquillity," to borrow from Wordsworth.

Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the greatest poets "makin melodye" in the English language, starts his famous poem "The Canterbury Tales" by celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring: "Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote/ The droghte of March hath perced to the roote."

Chaucer creates a wonderfully diverse band of pilgrims and follows them through their stories on the way to the monastery at Canterbury, England.

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It is a journey of promise and spiritual renewal wedded to the lives of ordinary people. Ever since, poets, like latter-day Chanticleers, herald "loud and clear" spring's seasonal and spiritual change.

T.S. Eliot flipped April's metaphor, calling into doubt the very promise and renewal inherent in spring, in his poem "The Waste Land," arguably the most influential poem of the 20th century.

His poem begins: "April is the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/memory and desire..."

Today being the start of National Poetry Month - April, of course - our cover story by Monitor poetry editor Elizabeth Lund (right) considers the health of poetry in the popular culture of the United States.

At one point in my life, I taught high school English. Though I had no trouble forcing grammar, spelling, or punctuation onto unwilling minds, I could never do this with poetry.

Latch on to a good book of poems and enjoy the season as e.e. cummings did in his "puddle-wonderful" verse:

in Just- spring when the world is mud- luscious the little lame balloonman whistles far and wee

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