Edited by John N. Serio
Illustrated by Robert Crockett
For ages 9 and up
Sterling, 2005, 978-1-4027-1254-8
For hundreds of years poets have been inspired by the ambiences and scenes that we experience as the seasons shift from spring to summer, summer into fall, fall into winter, and thence back to spring again. Thinking of the seasons summons up memories in us that are touched by colors, sounds, tastes, and smells. When we think of fall we think of yellow and red leaves, we smell cold smoky air, and hear feet crunching through fallen leaves. Our mouths water as we remember the taste of a crunchy apple or the sweet spiciness of pumpkin pie.
For this wonderful collection John N. Serio has selected poems that beautifully capture the flavor of each of the four seasons. For each season there are three haiku, a poetry form that is “traditionally built around the seasons.” The haiku are followed by a variety of poems that were written by contemporary poets and poets that lived long ago.
We begin with summer, reading about an old dog that is “Much too lazy to rise and run” and who prefers to spends the hot summer days lying in the sun. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gives us a picture of what it is like when there is a summer rain which gives us much needed relief from “the dust and heat.” His descriptions remind us that rain can indeed be a beautiful thing. Later in the book we meet Maggie, Milly, Molly, and May, four little girls who go to the beach to play. e. e. cummings describes how the girls find all kinds of little treasures on the beach, some which are wonderful and one which is not.
In the section dedicated to autumn, we find a poem by Thomas Hood which is, in a manner of speaking, an ode to November. It is clear straight away that the poet has no great fondness for this month when there is “No sun – no moon!” and when there is “No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees” and nothing else that is cheerful and cheering. Emily Dickinson gives us are far more positive picture of autumn, telling us about a maple tree with its “gayer scarf” and the field with its “scarlet gown.”
Like e. e. cummings, who does not care for November, T.S. Eliot does not seem to like winter much. He describes a grim, cold, grimy winter in a city where the rain beats down “On broken blinds and chimney-pots,” and where “grimy scraps” of “withered leaves” blow about. William Carlos Williams paints a much more attractive picture of trees, now bare of their leaves, that “stand sleeping in the cold” as “A liquid moon / moves gently among / the long branches.”
The poems for spring are all positive, celebrating the beauty of flowers and tree blossoms, and capturing the lifting feelings of hope and joy that people get in their hearts when the sun starts to shine and the sky is blue. Emily Dickinson in particular shows us how happy she is to see March in her poem ‘Dear March, come in!” It is delightful to see how to talks to March as if the month was a person who needs to be invited in and to whom she has “so much to tell.”
This is wonderful collection that readers of all ages will enjoy. The editor has written introductions for each of the poems, which tell us about the poet and his or her work. Sometimes the form of the poem is explained or discussed as well.