March – Origins
In the words of one historian, “The name of March comes from Latin Martius, the first month of the earliest Roman calendar. It was named for Mars, the Roman god of war who was also regarded as a guardian of agriculture and an ancestor of the Roman people through his sons Romulus and Remus. His month Martius was the beginning of the season for both farming and warfare, and the festivals held in his honor during the month were mirrored by others in October, when the season for these activities came to a close.”
Welcoming March with Poetry: Emily Dickinson
March is the month of expectation,
The things we do not know,
The Persons of Prognostication
Are coming now.
We try to sham becoming firmness,
But pompous joy
Betrays us, as his first betrothal
Betrays a boy.
Welcoming March with Prose: Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour. We go forth austere, dedicated, believing in the iron links of Destiny, and will not turn on our heel to save our life: but a book, or a bust, or only the sound of a name, shoots a spark through the nerves, and we suddenly believe in will.”
On This Date – Part I of II: Ralph Ellison
“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” – Ralph Ellison, American novelist, literary critic, scholar, writer, and author of “Invisible Man,” which won the 1953 National Book Award, who was born 1 March 1914.
Some quotes from the work of Ralph Ellison:
“I am an invisible man.
No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe:
Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms.
I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids
- and I might even be said to possess a mind.
I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.”
“What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?”
“And I knew that it was better to live out one’s absurdity than to die for that of others.”
“I remember that I’m invisible and walk softly so as not awake the sleeping ones. Sometimes it is best not to awaken them; there are few things in the world as dangerous as sleepwalkers.”
“Perhaps to lose a sense of where you are implies the danger of losing a sense of who you are.”
“The world is a possibility if only you’ll discover it.”
“We look too much to museums. The sun coming up in the morning is enough.”
“For, like almost everyone else in our country, I started out with my share of optimism. I believed in hard work and progress and action, but now, after first being ‘for’ society and then ‘against’ it, I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities. What a phrase – still it’s a good phrase and a good view of life, and a man shouldn’t accept any other; that much I’ve learned underground. Until some gang succeeds in putting the world in a strait jacket, its definition is possibility.”
“I feel the need to reaffirm all of it, the whole unhappy territory and all the things loved and unlovable in it, for it is all part of me.”
“The blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism. As a form, the blues is an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.”
“The end is in the beginning and lies far ahead.”
“And the mind that has conceived a plan of living must never lose sight of the chaos against which that pattern was conceived. That goes for societies as well as for individuals.”
“In those days it was either live with music or die with noise, and we chose rather desperately to live.”
“It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!”
“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
“Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?”
On This Date – Part II of II: Yellowstone National Park
1 March 1872 – President Ulysses S. Grant signs the bill that makes Yellowstone the world’s first National Park.
Below – Old Faithful Geyser; Yellowstone Lake; Grand Falls of the Yellowstone; Grand Canyon of Yellowstone; mountain meadow in Yellowstone; fly fishing in the Firehole River; Park Superintendent Horace M. Albright and dinner guests, 1922.
Welcoming March with Poetry: James Wright
A bear under the snow
Turns over to yawn.
It’s been a long, hard rest.
Once, as she lay asleep, her cubs fell
Out of her hair,
And she did not know them.
It is hard to breathe
In a tight grave:
So she roars,
And the roof breaks.
Dark rivers and leaves
Welcoming March with Prose: Charles Dickens
Welcoming March with Poetry: Ted Hughes
“March Morning Unlike Others”
Blue haze. Bees hanging in the air at the hive-mouth.
Crawling in prone stupor of sun
On the hive-lip. Snowdrops. Two buzzards,
Magnetized to the other,
Cattle standing warm. Lit, happy stillness.
A raven, under the hill,
Coughing among bare oaks.
Aircraft, elated, splitting blue.
Leisure to stand. The knee-deep mud at the trough
Stiffening. Lambs freed to be foolish.
The earth invalid, dropsied, bruised, wheeled
Out into the sun,
After the frightful operation.
She lies back, wounds undressed to the sun,
To be healed,
Sheltered from the sneapy chill creeping North wind,
Leans back, eyes closed, exhausted, smiling
Into the sun. Perhaps dozing a little.
While we sit, and smile, and wait, and know
She is not going to die.
Welcoming March with Prose: Hal Borland
Welcoming March with Poetry: Edmund Spenser
From “The Faerie Queene”
These, marching softly, thus in order went,
And after them, the Months all riding came;
First, sturdy March, with Brows full sternly bent,
And armed strongly, rode upon a Ram,
The same which over Hellespontus swam:
Yet in his Hand a Spade he also hent,
And in a Bag all sorts of Seeds ysame,
Which on the Earth he strowed as he went,
And fill’d her Womb with fruitful Hope of Nourishment.
Welcoming March with Poetry: Edward Hirsch
Saturday morning in late March.
I was alone and took a long walk,
though I also carried a book
of the Alone, which companioned me.
The day was clear, unnaturally clear,
like a freshly wiped pane of glass,
a window over the water,
and blue, preternaturally blue,
like the sky in a Magritte painting,
and cold, vividly cold, so that
you could clap your hands and remember
winter, which had left a few moments ago—
if you strained you could almost see it
disappearing over the hills in a black parka.
Spring was coming but hadn’t arrived yet.
I walked on the edge of the park.
The wind whispered a secret to the trees,
which held their breath
and scarcely moved.
On the other side of the street,
the skyscrapers stood on tiptoe.
I walked down to the pier to watch
the launching of a passenger ship.
Ice had broken up on the river
and the water rippled smoothly in blue light.
The moon was a faint smudge
in the clouds, a brushstroke, an afterthought
in the vacant mind of the sky.
Seagulls materialized out of vapor
amidst the masts and flags.
Don’t let our voices die on land,
they cawed, swooping down for fish
and then soaring back upwards.
The kiosks were opening
and couples moved slowly past them,
arm in arm, festive.
Children darted in and out of walkways,
which sprouted with vendors.
Voices greeted the air.
Kites and balloons. Handmade signs.
Voyages to unknown places.
The whole day had the drama of an expectation.
Down at the water, the queenly ship
started moving away from the pier.
The passengers clustered at the rails on deck.
I stood with the people on shore and waved
goodbye to the travelers.
Some were jubilant;
others were broken-hearted.
I have always been both.
Suddenly, a great cry went up.
The ship set sail for the horizon
and rumbled into the future
but the cry persisted
and cut the air
like an iron bell ringing
in an empty church.
I looked around the pier
but everyone else was gone
and I was left alone
to peer into the ghostly distance.
I had no idea where that ship was going
but I felt lucky to see it off
and bereft when it disappeared.
Welcoming March With Song – Takemitsu: “In the Month of March”
Welcoming March with Poetry: Emily Dickinson
Dear March — Come in —
How glad I am —
I hoped for you before —
Put down your Hat —
You must have walked —
How out of Breath you are —
Dear March, Come right up the stairs with me —
I have so much to tell —
I got your Letter, and the Birds —
The Maples never knew that you were coming — till I called
I declare — how Red their Faces grew —
But March, forgive me — and
All those Hills you left for me to Hue —
There was no Purple suitable —
You took it all with you —
Who knocks? That April.
Lock the Door —
I will not be pursued —
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied —
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come
Welcoming March with Poetry: John Burroughs
From “A March Glee”
I hear the sparrow’s ditty
Anear my study door;
A simple song of gladness
That winter days are o’er;
My heart is singing with him,
I love him more and more….
Oh, Spring is surely coming,
Her couriers fill the air;
Each morn are new arrivals,
Each night her ways prepare;
I scent her fragrant garments,
Her foot is on the stair.
Welcoming March with Prose: From the “Book of March Facts”
Welcoming March with Poetry: William Wordsworth
From “To My Sister”
It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before…
There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
And grass in the green field…
We from to-day, my Friend, will date
The opening of the year.
Love, now an universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing,
From earth to man, from man to earth:
—It is the hour of feeling.
Welcoming March with Poetry: Richard Kenney
Sky a shook poncho.
Roof wrung. Mind a luna moth
Caught in a banjo.
This weather’s witty
Peek-a-boo. A study in
Blues! Blooms! The yodel
Of the chimney in night wind.
That flat daffodil.
With absurd hauteur
New tulips dab their shadows
Boys are such oxen.
Girls! — sepal-shudder, shadow-
Plums on the Quad did
Blossom all at once, taking
Down the power grid.
Welcoming March with Poetry: Francesca Abbate
“Unusually Warm March Day, Leading to Storms”
Everything is half here,
like the marble head
of the Roman emperor
and the lean torso
of his favorite.
The way the funnel cloud
which doesn’t seem
to touch ground does—
flips a few cars, a semi—
we learn to walk miles
above our bodies.
The pig farms dissolve,
then the small hills.
As in dreams fraught
with irrevocable gestures,
the ruined set seems larger,
a charred palace the gaze
and through. How well
we remember the stage—
the actors gliding about
like petite sails, the balustrade
cooling our palms.
Not wings or singing,
but a darkness fast as blood.
It ended at our fingertips:
the fence gave way
to the forest.
The world began.
Welcoming March with Prose: Louis Grizzard
“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.”
Welcoming March with Poetry: Madeline DeFrees
“Three Things That Make Me Outrageously Happy in March”
Begin with the evergreen Clematis montana. Shy
about opening, blooms pulse into view
a few at a time against the night sky. Some
morning, a creamy tsunami
sweeps over the chain-link fence in a spring
seizure of yearning. Drenches the passerby in
dizzying scent and charges winter’s
dark air without warning.
Next, the black umbrella
ribs of Styrax japonica open to rain. Their
delicate green incipient leaves
reverse the gradual losses of autumn. remember
this overture to the Japanese Snowbell
symphony in May when it’s time to clean up
the carpet of dried flowers and pods, time to
cart uprooted seedlings away.
When navel oranges
kissed by lazy California sun, glow like
moons in every supermarket, I go
crazy, buy all I can carry. At home, they
tumble from the sack to kiss my eager lips, and as
that nectar of the gods floods my veins, I live
in lovers’ paradise every juicy moment
of Seattle rains.
Welcoming March with Poetry: Elizabeth Spires
“Ocean City: Early March”
Along Ocean Highway, apartments rise up
to ten and twenty stories,
white, hallucinatory, defying the shifting sand,
the storm moving in off the Atlantic
that drives the rain, needlelike,
across the windshield so that we can’t see,
so that we stop in Ocean City to wait the storm out
at the Dutch, the only bar on the boardwalk
open this time of year, all the concessions
boarded up, weather-beaten, closed against the season.
Last summer in violet light, kites
spiraled downward in loops, then up,
dragons and birds flying high above the boardwalk.
Ocean City. Haven of the lost and aimless,
with a ten-foot sand sculpture of Christ
illuminated by neon lights.
People on their way to Ripley’s BELIEVE IT OR NOT
looked on in apathy, then wandered off,
their children begging for another ride
on the Avalanche or Safari.
Out, far out, at the end of a pier,
silhouetted against gray sky, gray water,
Morbid Manor rose up, Gothic and dreamy,
as children ran screaming from the exit door
chased by a ghost with a chain saw.
One child ignored it all; she lay with her face
pressed close to a knothole in the pier,
looking down, down, to the boiling black water.
“What do you see?” I asked,
but she didn’t move or answer me.
Long, narrow, and dark,
the Dutch, with its shifting clientele—
from summer weekend pickups to Ocean City regulars—
allows for strangers. We order Irish coffee,
then two more, and use our change to play an arcade game.
Aliens, half an inch high, in green armor,
drop out of a glowing sky and quickly multiply.
Our backs to the storm, we play out
old anxieties, losing each game to time and starting over:
we must save what’s being threatened and not ask why.
Welcoming March with Poetry: Gary Snyder
A few light flakes of snow
Fall in the feeble sun;
Birds sing in the cold,
A warbler by the wall. The plum
Buds tight and chill soon bloom.
The moon begins first
Fourth, a faint slice west
At nightfall. Jupiter half-way
High at the end of night-
Meditation. The dove cry
Twangs like a bow.
At dawn Mt. Hiei dusted white
On top; in the clear air
Folds of all the gullied green
Hills around the town are sharp,
Breath stings. Beneath the roofs
Of frosty houses
Lovers part, from tangle warm
Of gentle bodies under quilt
And crack the icy water to the face
And wake and feed the children
And grandchildren that they love.
Welcoming March with Poetry: Antonio Machado
The afternoon is bright,
with spring in the air,
a mild March afternoon,
with the breath of April stirring,
I am alone in the quiet patio
looking for some old untried illusion –
some shadow on the whiteness of the wall
some memory asleep
on the stone rim of the fountain,
perhaps in the air
the light swish of some trailing gown.
Welcoming March with Art – Part VII of VII: Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones: “The March Marigold”