Autumn On Paper – A Poetic Mess
Music Credit: Rose (Prod. by Lukrembo)
Hi Pen Pals, I’m Jyn Arro and you’re listening to A Poetic Mess, the podcast where we turn the beautiful and ugly messes of our lives into poetry.
In today’s episode our prompt is the autumn season on paper, or at the very least put into words.
I do record this show ahead of time from when I plan to publish it – I’m a very hyper-organized person even though I’m a creative, my brain will literally descend into absolute chaos if I don’t schedule things out. So, it’s either a week or two after the day of the Autumn Equinox that I’m posting this episode.
Either way, fall is here… unless you live somewhere blazing hot like I do then I’ll be damned it’s still here in spirit! I refuse to acknowledge summer any longer, I am pulling my giant orange and cute cauldron mugs out and decorating my room with my little velvet pumpkins! I take my fall decor and knick knacks very seriously.
I’m going to start us off on an untraditional note before going into poetry that uses the typical fall associations, because being surrounded by a desert climate means that my relationship with the Autumn Equinox looks and feels very different. Our trees don’t change to pretty oranges and reds, they just turn dull and brown and either go dormant or just die haha.
So, my version of a poem dedicated to the fall and my favorite season, would go something like this:
We do not have gold or ruby trees To thank the valley desert upon our knees What we have in their stead is a cooling breeze The kind that gives the most soothing peace The time of year when Sun decides To spare us the full force of their scorching pride And rather a more forgiving warmth provide That is when we no longer need hide We find our joy in small victories Cradling cups of coco or sipping hot teas The first shivers that call for a blanket to squeeze Autumn is a friend of subtleties
That is how I would write about the arrival of autumn as I know it, let’s call this poem… Meeting The Desert Autumn or… My Strange Autumn.
I wanted to share this because seasonal topics like this can be kind of alienating, especially if the way they are standardly described or written about is completely unrelatable to you and where you live. I love the stereotypical changing and falling leaves, yellow, orange and red, pumpkin-everything kind of autumn, but my own diverging experience of it is just as real and just as valid.
Growing up where I lived, the fall never looked like how it did in movies or how it was described in popular literature, and I know I sure felt like I was missing out on something. But the Autumn Equinox marks a change in the cosmos that’s far larger than an earthly aesthetic and is still happening no matter how distinct it looks in your own local environment. And let’s not forget the world is bigger than those of us here in the Northern Hemisphere, because, at the same time, the Southern Hemisphere is experiencing their Spring Equinox… and I don’t think anyone’s about to send them a poem about pumpkin spice – or at least I hope not.
Relatability is relative like most things in the arts, and the earth is so beautifully diverse: perfect for taking creative inspiration from what the world looks like around you and through your own unique set of eyes and other senses. I advise you first, then, to try your hand at writing an autumnal poem primarily from your own memories and perspective of the season – heck, for all I know, maybe you hate it and don’t find anything all that great about it.
I know someone who once described autumn to me as gross because when the leaves fell to the ground they’d rot and become a mushy sludge that you’d have to clean up or walk through. And, we don’t get that here where I live, so it’s easy for me to have a very idyllic imagery of falling leaves in my head versus what the reality might be. But whoever said disgust couldn’t be poetic???
While I was researching for this episode, I found a handful of autumn themed poems uploaded to a blog called Braman’s Wanderings, and I wanted to share two of them with you. They were found in their grandmother’s scrapbook and I’ll have a link to the blog up on my website in the post for this episode, if you want to see the pictures of the poems as they were directly cut out from old newspapers and magazines. These are thought to be from about 50 years ago.
The first one I’ll read to you is called Bringing Autumn In and it was written by Annie Willis McCullough.
Grandma’s paring apples, Sign that’s full of cheer; Summer’s nearly over, Autumn’s nearly here. Cozy evenings coming, Mornings brisk and cool; Long vacation ended, Busy times at school. Grandma’s paring apples. Some of them she dries, Some make sauce and puddings, Some make spicy pies. Pantry smells delicious, Pockets bulge out wide; Children with their baskets Roam the orchard-side. Grandma’s paring apples, Nicest time o’year; Firelight and lamplight Fill the house with cheer. Odors sweet in cellar, Rosy fruit in bin; Grandma’s paring apples, Brings the autumn in!
So traditional and so wonderfully cozy in its imagery that describes everything so vividly you can practically hear the crisp apples being cut and sliced, and smell the deliciously filled pie pastry as it bakes. It is an excellent example of a quintessentiallly autumnal poem.
It’s about the season, yes, but more than that it’s about the loved ones and activities this writer associated with it. This poet is a complete stranger and I’ve never read anything else by them, but their poem gives such a clear glimpse into their memories and feelings toward this time of the year. And now, I feel like I at least know them better than I did before, and think about how nice it must be to live near an apple orchard… or an orchard of any kind, honestly.
The next poem is simply titled Autumn, and it’s by Hattie Anundsen.
The autumn is a gipsy, when the frost is in the air; A joyous, tattered wanderer, with sumac in her hair. She passes field and meadowland and hangs her banners there; At night her crimson campfire wafts its perfume everywhere. The autumn is a priestess, when the leaves are brown and sere; She takes her forms of worship from a faded yesteryear. Her robes of mist float round her as she burns an incense sweet, And bows before her woodland gods who do not know defeat. She plucks the flaunting banners down that once she hung so high, And sets their blazing colors on her altar in the sky.
I’m a huge, huge fan of personification, giving something intangible or inanimate the qualities and descriptors of a living being, and even referring to them with human pronouns. It’s an terrific way to exercise our fictional writing skills since the words we’re using are obviously not literally true.
And we also get to heavily rely on our imagination to ascribe a personality to otherwise vague concepts, and nature, in particular, has a very rich history of being personified in both creative literature and religious texts. This poet herself described the autumn as a priestess whose forms of worship come from what’s past. The misty fall weather are her religious robes, the scent of the fall time comes from the incense she burns, she prays to gods of the land, and autumnal colors, so oranges, yellows and reds, are used to decorate her altar which is the sky.
It’s a beautiful poem that gives me the impression that this was the writer’s way of honoring the fall and all of its natural gifts. And, if you’re interested in this style of writing then I would definitely encourage you to look into the lore and religious works written on autumnal deities, many of which exist in cultures from all around the world though they probably look very different from one another. From the Romans and Greeks, to the Native Americans and other peoples of North America, and many, many more.
Mythology in general is always going to be a really good source of inspiration for any type of creative writing, but especially poetry. Author Nikita Gill, a phenomenal writer and poet, has written entire books that are collections of stories and poems drawing from Goddesses, their lore and lessons.
I mentioned in the first episode of this podcast that Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets, and I thought we would end our welcome of the autumnal times with a poem of his:
This is Gathering Leaves:
Spades take up leaves No better than spoons, And bags full of leaves Are light as balloons. I make a great noise Of rustling all day Like rabbit and deer Running away. But the mountains I raise Elude my embrace, Flowing over my arms And into my face. I may load and unload Again and again Till I fill the whole shed, And what have I then? Next to nothing for weight, And since they grew duller From contact with earth, Next to nothing for color. Next to nothing for use, But a crop is a crop, And who’s to say where The harvest shall stop?
This is the kind of poem that makes me want to have my own leaf pile to play around in, but also, then, not want to have to deal with the clean up…
The title gives away the obvious subject matter, but the words he uses to describe the raking and piling of leaves, the moment of play he has with them, and then their inevitable decay are filled with contemplative emotion. There is joy, maybe a bit of disappointment but a sense of contentment at the end.
The poems in today’s episode each uniquely did their own thing, and I hope you found inspiration from the ones you liked best.
Thank you for listening [or reading] and I cannot wait to continue to write with you, my fellow poetry lovers and pen wielders. Please share your poems with me on Twitter or Instagram using hashtag #apoeticmess. And you can stay in touch, be in the know as soon as my first book, Book of Mirrors, comes out, and read my poetry and other works @ JynArro across all social media platforms and jynarro.com.
You can support the podcast and my work at paypal.me/ByJynArro.
Till next time, this has been A Poetic Mess.