April 13: Amy Clampitt's "Green"

This meditation on the undertones of spring’s green is from Amy Clampitt’s last collection, A Silence Opens, published in 1994 (she died later that year). Mary Jo Salter, in an illuminating introduction to the new Selected Poems, explains of Clampitt’s verse, “You couldn’t be sure where her thought was going; instead, you were invited to participate in her well-phrased wonder at where you both arrived. Hers was not a logical but an associative mind…Her genius was to stir unlikely figures, themes, and sounds into each other boldly, even rashly, and to contain, in well-crafted vessels, their chemical reactions.”


These coastal bogs, before they settle
       down to the annual
business of being green, show an
       ambivalence, an overtone

halfway autumnal, half membranous
       sheen of birth: what is
that cresset shivering all by itself
       above the moss, the fallen duff—

a rowan? What is that gathering blush
       of russet the underbrush
admits to—shadblow, its foliage
       come of ungreen age?

The woods are full of this, the red
       of an anticipated
afterglow that’s (as it were) begun
       in gore, green that no more than

briefly intervenes. More brief
       still is the whiff,
the rime, the dulcet powdering, just now,
       of bloom that for a week or two

will turn the sullen boglands airy—
       a look illusory
of orchards, but a reminder also
       and no less of falling snow.

Petals fall, leaves hang on all
       summer; chlorophyll,
growth, industry, are what they hang
       on for. The relinquishing

of doing things, of being occupied
       at all, comes hard:
the drifting, then the lying still.

Learn more about Selected Poems by Amy Clampitt

Listen to Mary Jo Salter reading Amy Clampitt’s “Green”

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