Mark Twain said, “Nothing breaks up an author’s progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the weather. Thus it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author.” Dare I disagree with the famous curmudgeon? What about The Perfect Storm? Snoopy’s opening line: “It was a dark and stormy night”? There horrific Pacific weather in one of my favorite books, Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken? Then there’s Jack London’s story, “To Build a Fire” which begins “Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, . . .” and the weather becomes the antagonist. Brrrr!
An editor from Yankee Magazine once published a poem of mine called “Come Spring” (also the title of a wonderful historical novel about Maine by Ben Ames Williams). Said editor wrote that she had vowed never again to publish any more poems about spring. She’d had all the spring-things she could stand, but she changed her mind about the little poem I had sent. Why? Well, it was mine! No, she didn’t know me. Said poem overcame her revulsion for poems primavera because it cast a different light on the roses-in-bud-abursting theme. I give it to you now:
Old urges send me walking out
in search of what I’ve lately missed ―
things not so much named as felt
beneath my feet ― and make me yearn
for oranges and going out to sea,
for whales and other pretty strangers.
What I find is the neighborhood marsh,
its hummocks of grass and perished moss,
a child’s lost ball, a tin culvert.
The culvert gives me advantage
over the water as I balance
on its slippery dome. Cattails smell
of a rotten winter, and a man’s glove
grips a dead branch. Maybe
he hung it for a secret sign.
It looks as lost as I want to be.
Black ducks wack-wack and clatter
through small water. When they fly
they flap like lawn ornaments.
From a swamp oak something new
calls. Its chuckling cry says I
know little about the earth as it
whirls our marsh to face the sun.
Yup, I broke the rules and broke the mold for springing poems. So when someone–even someone as smart as Mr. Twain–tells you not to do something in a piece of writing and you are determined, try it. But be sure you know the rule you’re breaking. Now, all my dear ones in New England, get the candles, matches, firewood and bottled water ready for the storm that seems to be bearing down on you this weekend. Forgive me for reminding you about spring, but hang on. It will come again. While you wait, write something new, really new. Send it to me. We have snow here in Colorado but it won’t last. Nothing lasts, certainly not bad weather in books or out.