Laura Dzubay: Poetry playlist for the seasons

Sunday, January 13, 2019 - 5:49pm

Everywhere I have lived in my life, people have told me their state’s weather is uniquely unpredictable. As a result, I have come to think that weather is weird in general, and this principle doesn’t vary too much from state to state. But as a senior, I have now spent nearly four years in Ann Arbor, meaning four consecutive winters, which is the longest amount of consecutive winters I’ve really spent somewhere (excluding smaller visits) since I was very young. And of those four, this has to be honestly the strangest one yet.

When I make poetry playlists, I often try to make them seasonal and relatable. I’ve done a Halloween one, a Valentine’s Day one, one for the end of the semester. I thought about doing something along those lines for this, the first poetry playlist of this winter semester, but the weather has been so strange lately that it’s been hard to land on a unified theme. It was unseasonably warm for unseasonably long, and now it’s cold again. It’s January, and yet it feels and looks like late fall (or early spring?). If I share a bunch of poems focused on the cold, I’m almost sure it will become warm again instantly, and vice versa.

In a way, maybe this is appropriate. It’s a new year 2019! A new year is a time for changes, even really sudden ones or ones that we don’t immediately understand. As a result, I’ve decided to share three of my favorite poems that celebrate nature in all its seasons, and most of all that celebrate change. Seasonal changes are my favorite kind because they’re quiet, unsuspected and unassuming, very reliable (whatever we say about them) and often beautiful. This might sound cheesy, but it’s my final semester here, so I’m allowing myself to lean into the sentiment. Here’s to a new year; may we all be in the mindset to welcome whatever strangeness it brings.

Two Seasons” by Galway Kinnell

Expertly straddling the line between fond reflection and self-aware, wistful presence, “Two Seasons” demonstrates Galway Kinnell’s talent for precision in language. His choices of words are not only meticulous, but also sonorous, with lines like “As on the low lake shore stood you and I” and “Saying you felt afraid but that you were / Weary of being mute and undefiled” contributing to a seamless overall portrait of love and mutual appreciation.

Love’s Seasons” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar is a master of rendering the natural world through language, and in “Love’s Seasons,” he maneuvers through the seasons of the year with an interesting choice of order (spring, winter, summer, then fall), devoting a stanza to each. The enduring sentiment of the poem is one of sure serenity in the face of change, as contentedness at its core is deep and true in every season.

Changing Of The Seasons” by Shel Silverstein

“Changing Of The Seasons” is peculiar among these selections in that it is actually a song. I’m including it here nonetheless because it is still a poem and beautifully written, and because few people can dig straight to the heart of a feeling, especially a specific feeling, like serenity in the face of seasonal change, in quite the same way as Shel Silverstein. Between a few repetitions of the line, “It’s blowin’ in Chicago,” Silverstein remarks upon the peace that this natural phenomenon can bring: “There’s some men need the winter and there’s some men need the sun / And there’s some men need the changing of the seasons.”