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Monday, April 1, 2019

April 2019 is here...

... and in NYC it arrived with temperatures in the low thirties, prompting folks on the street to make reference to the weather being an April Fool's Day prank.

April is a month that T.S. Eliot proclaimed was the cruelest, that is part of a quotation (posted above) from The Wasteland, which is one I've referenced in prior entries here on Blogger; but today I came upon an interpretation of these words that really spoke to me and I hope they do the same for you, dear reader.

In an article for Node in the Global Mind, Chris Day responds to the question, What did T.S. Eliot mean when he said that April is the cruelest month (in his poem, The Waste Land)? Day states the following:

"Let's look at the first seven lines of the first stanza:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

In the northern hemisphere, April is clasically associated with spring. This is classic Eliot topsy-turviness. April is cruel? How can April be cruel? It's spring; with flowers and mild weather and sex and love in the air. 

He's giving us an insight into a mind that doesn't revel in these things as might be expected. 'breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land' is a very heavy, depressed way to describe the blooming of flowers. He sees the same things as everyone else, but there is no joy there. 'mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain;' a sense of loss and longing, of being rooted in the past, and spring re-awakening memories of things that have passed. 

By comparison; 'Winter kept us warm' 'forgetful snow;' these things suggest a state of comfortable emotional hibernation.

An old literature teacher once put it thus; when your arm is numb, you don't feel it. But when the blood flows again, and the pins and needles come, suddenly you know about it. It's not (emotional) numbness that hurts; it's the return of feeling.

Anyone who has dealt with long-term depression can probably feel the connection to what Eliot is describing here, and it does a fantastic job of leading in to the rest of the poem, which deals excrutiatingly with depression and memory. 

In summary; April is the cruelest month because the life and color of spring throws one's depression into stark relief and forces painful memories to surface."

Day's interpretation of the first seven lines of Eliot's stanza rings true for me on a very personal level they remind me of  a poem by Emily Dickinson, which is about her first encounter with a robin in any given new year.

"I dreaded that first Robin, so,
But He is mastered, now,
I'm accustomed to Him grown,
He hurts a little, though—

"I thought If I could only live
Till that first Shout got by—
Not all Pianos in the Woods
Had power to mangle me—

"I dared not meet the Daffodils—
For fear their Yellow Gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own—

"I wished the Grass would hurry—
So—when 'twas time to see—
He'd be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch—to look at me—

"I could not bear the Bees should come,
I wished they'd stay away
In those dim countries where they go,
What word had they, for me?

"They're here, though; not a creature failed—
No Blossom stayed away
In gentle deference to me—
The Queen of Calvary—

"Each one salutes me, as he goes,
And I, my childish Plumes,
Lift, in bereaved acknowledgment
Of their unthinking Drums—"

I referenced Dickinson's poem in my June 4th 2016 blog post, but am posting it here again in honor of the presence of an American robin I saw with a blueberry...

when I was in Central Park this past Friday. I was on my way to the Eastside when I came upon this sighting and it gave me much pleasure, which was a blessing because I was not feeling up to par physically. I also was feeling very despondent and full of regret.

Within a few days I realized how blessed I am to be amused by what most would call a little thing (seeing a robin drop a berry).

My circumstances have remain tough for so long and confess I was not aware at how fortunate I am that small details bring me such joy and that no matter how downtrodden I do "dare" to "meet the daffodils"...

and unlike Dickinson, I can bear the bees (alighting on the Black and Blue Salvia in my garden as well as enjoying crocuses in Central Park).

American robins, bees and crocuses are featured in my book series, Words In Our Beak, which include many aspects of nature that will lift one's spirits, even if they are in an April-is-the-cruelest-of-months doldrums.
Purchase Info for Words In Our Beak.

Volume One: ISBN: 9780996378529
Book Seller Info:
Barnes & Noble On-Line:
book culture On Columbus (a bookstore on the UWS in NYC):

Volume Two: ISBN: 9780996378536
Book Seller Info:
Barnes & Noble On-Line:

Volume Three: ISBN: 978099637853
Book Seller Info:
Barnes & Noble On-Line:



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