The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Forsythia: The Real vs. The Concrete Poem

The forsythia at the bottom of our drive finally bloomed. It's survived two different transplants and is approximately 25 years old. I think it's beautiful and its brilliant yellow flowers signal the beginning of spring on our place which means dogwoods, redbuds, pears, and U.S. Weather service tornado warnings (!) are sure to follow. It also means that soon I'll be able to change the picture at the top of this blog to another one depicting green leafed trees instead of red and gold autumn foliage.

Mary Ellen Solt was an American concrete poet; the poems she and her contemporaries in this movement wrote are sometimes called shaped poems. Solt's work was most notably poems in the shape of flowers such as "Forsythia", "Lilac", and "Geranium". They were collected in Flowers in Concrete (1966). Her most famous is "Forsythia" and its text (located at the bottom of the letter strands) is very simple:

"forsythia, outrace, spring, yellow, telegram, hope, inisists, action"

The letters of the word "forsythia" race up out of those roots and take the shape of the branches of the flowering bush. Yes, I agree. It's not really much of a poem. More like a simple telegram which says in its truncated way that the yellow forsythia embodies the urge we all feel in the spring to act, to do something. The poem's shape is the only thing that makes it interesting.


  1. Got some of that going on in the back yard right now!

    No tornado's please.