Author: Willa Cather
Pages: 47 (36 poems)
Published: 2008 Dodo Press (originally 1903)
My Rating: 3? I feel unqualified to rate poetry!
Because I've loved everything I've read by Willa Cather, (and secretly because I think she looks like my great grandmother which makes me feel happy and cozy,) I have decided to read all of her published works in chronological order--not including early stories originally published in periodicals.
Her first was April Twilights: a collection of poetry. This is Willa Cather's only published collection of poetry, although she reissued it in 1923 as April Twilights and Other Poems with 14 new poems, and excluding 13 of the originals (cited here).
Based on the beautiful language in the books I've read (O Pioneers! Song of the Lark, and My Antonia) I was looking forward to reading these poems, although I'm not predisposed to like poetry in general. Often I find poetry to be just a little too inaccessible to be enjoyable; too much work to be pleasing. This is not to say that I shy away from it, however. On the contrary, I seem to always be looking for something that will change my opinion--I do love creative use of language, contemplation and insight, wit and whimsy.
Unfortunately, most of the 36 poems in this collection were, for me, mediocre. There were a couple that were interesting or touching, but most of them were rather forgettable. I did see little glimpses of the inspiration that must have fueled Cather's later works, which is one of the great things about reading an author chronologically. My favorite was the last poem in the collection, by far the most breathtaking, titled L'ENVOI:
Where are the loves that we had loved before
When once we are alone, and shut the door?
No matter whose the arms that held me fast,
The arms of Darkness hold me at the last.
No matter down what primrose path I tend,
I kiss the lips of Silence in the end.
No matter on what heart I found delight,
I come again unto the breast of Night.
No matter when or how love did befall,
'Tis Loneliness that loves me best of all,
And in the end she claims me, and I know
That she will stay, though all the rest may go.
No matter whose the eyes that I would keep
Near in the dark, 'tis in the eyes of Sleep
That I must look and look forever more,
When once I am alone, and shut the door.
That's 1 out of 19 on my Willa Cather journey...next stop The Troll Garden and Other Short Stories.