Misreading Housman

By Linda Pastan b. 1932 Linda Pastan
On this first day of spring, snow
covers the fruit trees, mingling improbably   
with the new blossoms like identical twins   
brought up in different hemispheres.   
It is not what Housman meant
when he wrote of the cherry
hung with snow, though he also knew   
how death can mistake the seasons,   
and if he made it all sound pretty,   
that was our misreading
in those high school classrooms
where, drunk on boredom, we had to recite   
his poems. Now the weather is always looming

in the background, trying to become more   
than merely scenery, and though today   
it is telling us something
we don't want to hear, it is all
so unpredictable, so out of control
that we might as well be children again,   
hearing the voices of thunder
like baritone uncles shouting
in the next room as we try to sleep,   
or hearing the silence of snow falling   
soft as a coverlet, even in springtime   
whispering: relax, there is nothing   
you can possibly do about any of this.

Linda Pastan, "Misreading Housman" from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1998 by Linda Pastan.  Reprinted with the permission of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc.

Source: Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1998)

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Poet Linda Pastan b. 1932

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects School & Learning, Reading & Books, Poetry & Poets, Activities, Arts & Sciences

 Linda  Pastan


Poet Linda Pastan was raised in New York City but has lived for most of her life in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. In her senior year at Radcliffe College, Pastan won the Mademoiselle poetry prize (Sylvia Plath was the runner-up). Immediately following graduation, however, she decided to give up writing poetry in order to concentrate on raising her family. After ten years at home, her husband urged her to return . . .

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SUBJECT School & Learning, Reading & Books, Poetry & Poets, Activities, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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