Friday, January 16, 2015

"January Jumps About in the Frying Pan"

Don't you just love how the New Year stretches out in front of you this time of year? From January to December, there's very little filled in yet on the calendar. Possibilities abound. By December, it will be a jumble of scribbled notes, circled days, reminders, appointments, annotations, and cross-outs.

Translation: Fog in January, sunny year. Free downloadable calendar with original artwork by Sophie Kukukita

Below is a little months-of-the-year poem that I like for its asymmetrical rhythms - the poet, George Barker (about whom I know very little other than the fact that he was English and T.S. Eliot declared him a genius) takes his time line-wise, syllable-wise, and stress-wise in getting to the rhymes he wants, a little like a jazz musician who arrives at his logical destination despite unpredictable digressions. November is my favorite stanza, with February a close second. How about you?

January Jumps About 

January jumps about
in the frying pan
trying to heat
his frozen feet
like a Canadian.

February scuttles under
any dish's lid
and she thinks she's dry because she's
thoroughly well hid
but it still rains all month long
and it always did.

March sits in the bath tub
with the taps turned on.
Hot and cold, cold or not,
Has the Winter gone?
In like a lion, out like a lamb
March on, march on, march on.

April slips about
sometimes indoors
and sometimes out
sometimes sheltering from a little
shower of bright rain
in an empty milk bottle
then dashing out again.

May, she hides nowhere,
nowhere at all,
Proud as a peacock
walking by a wall.
The Maytime O the Maytime,
full of leaf and flower.
The Maytime O the Maytime
is the loveliest of all.

June discards his shirt and
trousers by the stream
and takes the first dip of the year
into a jug of cream.
June is the gay time
of every girl and boy
who run about and sing and shout
in pardonable joy.

July by the sea
sits dabbling with sand
letting it run out of
her rather lazy hand,
and sometimes she sadly
thinks: "As I sit here
ah, more than half the year is gone,
the evanescent year."

August by an emperor
was given his great name.
It is gold and purple
like a Hall of Fame.
(I have known it rather cold
and wettish, all the same.)

September lies in shadows
of the fading summer
hearing, in the distance,
the silver horns of winter
and not very far off
the coming autumn drummer.

October, October
apples on the tree,
the Partridge in the Wood and
the big winds at sea,
the mud beginning in the lane
the berries bright and red
and the big tree wildly
tossing its old head.

November, when the fires
love to burn, and leaves
flit about and fill the air
where the old tree grieves.
November, November
its name is like a star
glittering on many things that were
but few things that are.

Twelfth and last December.
a few weeks away
we hear the silver bells
of the stag and the sleigh
flying from the tundras
far far away
bringing to us all the gift
of our Christmas Day.

                 ---George Barker

Speaking of time passing - month-by-month or year-by-year - here are two photos of George Barker - young and old. A life lived in between those two snapshots.

If you want to read what other people are posting for Poetry Friday, head over to Irene Latham's blog, Live Your Poem, by clicking here.


  1. So many favorite bits here...February scuttling under "any dish's lid," March sitting in the bath tub, September's autumn drummer, October's tree tossing its head. I think the last two stanzas might be my favorites, though. I will save the whole thing. Thanks also for the snapshots. I am curious about the life lived between!

  2. I'm curious too, Tabatha. Who was George Parker, and how can someone that T.S. Eliot declares to be a genius be so unknown? Time for some research!

  3. Oops - I didn't even get his name right just now. It's Barker, not Parker.

  4. Ah! For me, it's bold May and grieving November. Love this and will return to it. Thank you, Julie... we have had lots of fog here so far this year, so here's hoping for that SUNNY year! xo

  5. Love this poem -- I think October and November are my favorites. Now I'm curious to learn more about George Barker and his work :). I enjoyed how unpredictable each stanza was, like opening a new gift each time.

  6. Oh, I love the rhythm of this piece. For me, it's spunky October and reflective November, though there are so many riches here. He has quite the resume of publications -- it's odd there is so little about him.

  7. This is a gift to savor, Julie, difficult to find a favorite because they all ring true, but are also unique thoughts. Still, I remember how much others write about May after the long winter, although April is not far behind. Love "May, she hides nowhere,
    nowhere at all," Thank you!

  8. My favorites are the "pardonable joy" of June and the head-tossing of October! Fun poem!

  9. I've taken quite a fancy to June- that first creamy dip and pardonable joy! So many great tidbits to savor in this poem, Julie. Thanks for sharing and for piquing my interest with those terrific photos as well!

  10. Dear Julie,
    This made my heart flutter today. Loved March most of all, probably because it's my birthday month. How lovely to see the months passing in poetry.

  11. Well, I managed to miss this last week, but so happy to have stumbled in today! Thank you for getting us off on the right foot, Julie, and wishing you a year full of "pardonable joy."