June 14, 2011

Grasses: "Undulant...a gloss of purple", a Poem by Amy Clampitt

I am not a great reader of poetry; I feel this as one of my cultural lacks, along with opera. But there are certain writers who use words that are so intensely visual that I am carried along with pleasure, such as William Carlos Williams: "a red wheel/barrow//glazed with rain/water..." Another such is Amy Clampitt whose nature poems are so pointed, yet complex; who finds the most remarkable metaphors that startle a reader with their aptness; who carries you deep into an experience with her close attention. I read her poem "Grasses" some months ago; it moved me, and I knew that I wanted to share it when the grasses began to flower, as they are now.

Undulant across the slopes
a gloss of purple
day by day arrives to dim
the green, as grasses

I never learned the names of–
numberless, prophetic,
transient–put on a flowering
so multiform, one

scarcely notices: the oats grow tall,
their pendent helmetfuls
of mica–drift, examined stem
by stem, disclose

alloys so various, enamelings
of a vermeil so
craftless, I all but despair of
ever reining in a

metaphor for: even the plebeian
dooryard plantain's
every homely cone–tip earns a
halo, a seraphic

hatband of guarantee that
dying, for
the unstudied, multitudinously
truly lowly,

has no meaning, is nothing
if not flowering's
swarming reassurances of one
more resurrection.


  1. A few weeks ago I sat watching a field of winter rye. It was so active in the breeze. I was focusing on how it exposed the intricacy of the otherwise invisible wind. I wish I had thought of the word "undulant". Lovely.

  2. Clampitt's command of language is breathtaking; as I read her I often wish I had thought of some of her words.

  3. Beautiful poem. I love the grasses, the wind blowing catching the late day light..."swarming reassurances of one more resurrection." Wow! Good share.

  4. Maggie, I'm glad you like the poem; I too think those final lines are amazing.