Poetry Review: “A Tulip Garden” by Amy Lowell

During the month of May, MontanaWriter is featuring poems about flowers… and a few photos I have taken over the years of flowers and plants. 

 

In the North Country, tulips are among the first flowers of spring. In the brown and green days of early spring, they represent some of the first real color of the year… making their essential beauty even more luminous. They are harbingers of better days to come.

Amy Lowell was, of course, an Imagist.  The term Imagist was originally coined by Ezra Pound to describe the kind of poetry that Richard Aldington, his more famous wife, poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), and Amy Lowell among others were writing. The kind of poetry Pound was exploring himself.

I have posted the Imagist creed at MontanaWriter a number of times, including here.  Lowell and her fellow Imagists were looking for language and images in poetry that were more direct and precise than that of the Victorians (or Romantics), as well a poetic style that was more… un-sentimental.

On a May morning, an Amy Lowell poem seems like just the thing.

Enjoy!

 

A Tulip Garden
Guarded within the old red wall’s embrace,
Marshalled like soldiers in gay company,
The tulips stand arrayed. Here infantry
Wheels out into the sunlight. What bold grace
Sets off their tunics, white with crimson lace!
Here are platoons of gold-frocked cavalry,
With scarlet sabres tossing in the eye
Of purple batteries, every gun in place.
Forward they come, with flaunting colours spread,
With torches burning, stepping out in time
To some quick, unheard march. Our ears are dead,
We cannot catch the tune. In pantomime
Parades that army. With our utmost powers
We hear the wind stream through a bed of flowers.

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

                                           Our ears are dead,
We cannot catch the tune. In pantomime
Parades that army. With our utmost powers
We hear the wind stream through a bed of flowers.

 

There is much to love in this poem: the extended metaphor, the loose rhyme, the sense of alienation from nature. I have noticed over the years that Lowell is the kind of poet that even people who do not particularly like or read poetry that much enjoy reading. She is at once “good to great”, “accessible”, and “interesting”.  That trifecta may be the most difficult to achieve in poetry. Most of the poets I love best fail miserably in the area of “accessibility.” Yet Lowell achieves it  regularly.
 

 

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