Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Start of a New Season

I've had fun with this blog, but it's really eating into my time for serious writing. So sadly I am going to have to shut this baby down after this post.

There. I just had to get my April Fools joke out of the way early. There won't be any more, I promise. And I realize as jokes go, it wasn't even a particularly funny one. More the sort of lame joke I try on Lily where she ends up rolling her eyes, shaking her head and sighing "Bampy!" You cannot imagine how easy it is to be devastated by a 6 1/2-year-old critic.

Also, it's important to get this April Fools joking out of the way pretty quickly, because here in Oz - unlike America - if you try a practical joke after midday, you become the April Fool yourself. Not that being called a fool is that bad. Trust me, I know.

Checking out Wikipedia, it looks pretty obvious that lots of people have theories about why there is such a thing as an April Fools Day. It's also pretty obvious that most of them are just guessing.

The beginning of April isn't just about hoaxes and jokeses, of course.

When I was teaching poetry at the university in Binghamton, I always had fun this week having the class pick their favorite from duelling April 1st poems. The first is the famous line from Chaucer's prologue to the Canterbury Tales:

When that April, with his showers sweet,
The drought of March has pierced to the root

(Trust me. It rhymes in the Middle English Chaucer spoke, and the meter is right. And it sounds much, much better that way, too.)

And the second was T.S. Eliot's 20th Century reply starting The Waste Land:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

It was kind of an ink-blot test to determine the personalities of the kids in the class. If they liked old Chaucer, they were probably fun and sunny - the sort of kids you would happily give As to even if they were dumb as a rock. If they liked gloomy Eliot's better, they were probably quite bright and would deserve their As, but you would make sure to lock yourself in the men's room if they came to school one day in an overcoat with funny bulges in it.

And if, like me, you liked both of the poems? Well, if the Good Lord didn't want us to ever sit on the fence, he wouldn't have given us such a big crack in the butt, would He?

Of course, all this stuff about April is very Northern Hemisphere. Down here in the Antipodes those April showers may come our way, but they don't necessarily bring the flowers that bloom in May. That's because we've kissed summer good-bye and are heading down the road toward winter.

Which brings to mind another pair of duelling poems I used to teach. Both use the word icumen, which is just an old word for what we now say as "a-coming":

You might prefer the traditional:

Summer is icumen in.
Loudly sing Cuckoo.

Or you could opt for another type of cuckoo, Ezra Pound's take on it:

Winter is icumen in.
Lhude sing goddam.

No contest here. Crazy Ezra wins hands down. Anyhow, Happy April to you all.

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