spring again by Jesús Papoleto Meléndez comes from his collection ‘Hey Yo! Yo Soy!’ and explores the progression of the seasons and how life continues through them. Meléndez is a New York-born Puerto Rican poet, and strongly identifies with the Nuyorican Street Poetry scene, many considering him a founding father of this movement.
spring again focuses on the Spring season of one year, with the characters in the poem filling time while waiting for Summer to come. It at once stresses how slow time passes, and how quickly the seasons can change. This focus on the progression of time demonstrates that although some moments are slow and some are fast, time never stops moving. The poem interacts with characters from the city, focusing on activities that the ‘junkies’ and ‘ghetto musicians’ do to pass the time within spring. For a poem which is addressing Spring, there is very little imagery of nature, instead of focusing more on the city and its occupants. There is certain melancholia within the poem, the people described being unable to change or escape their circumstances, stuck in a cycle of waiting for the next season forever.
You can read the full poem spring again here.
The structure of spring again acts as a key poetic technique within the poem, being split, varied and with space and gaps being a key point within the narrative. The use of enjambments, blended with many caesuras creates a stuttered meter, breaking and starting over and over again. Meléndez is using his structure to reflect the passing of time, some moments moving quickly, some slowly, but never stopping altogether.
There are, arguably, 9 stanzas within the poem, although the employment of gaps as a poetic technique in the narrative could persuade some to look at this as one continuous poem. The narrative is cyclic, beginning and ending with a focus on the seasons, with the middle being filled by the human activities that take place in Spring.
The use of punctuation, capital letters, and space within the page is reminiscent of the poetry of ee cummings, with the freeform structure a reflection of the spontaneity of Spring.
Enjambment is used frequently by Meléndez, increasing the speed of a line as it quickly flows on to the next. This is a reflection of the passing of time, the season edging continuously closer to ‘summer’ demonstrated through the frequent use of this technique. Moreover, it gives a flowing cohesion to the lines, allowing images and ideas to be coupled together.
Building on this, Meléndez also uses repetition and line anaphora to symbolize the cyclic nature of life, with activities and moments happening over and over. It seems as if the people within spring again are stuck in a cycle of waiting for the next day, continuously, until one day it will become ‘summer’.
spring again Analysis
Jesús Papoleto Meléndez begins the poem with ’spring’, focusing the poem on the importance of the season. Yet, due to the lack of a capital letter, this beginning can also be interpreted as undermining the importance of the season. This is expanded when ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ are introduced, with Meléndez demonstrating the insignificance of the seasons. With or without them, life will go on. Indeed, by focusing only on the seasons at the beginning and end of the poem, Meléndez suggests that the bulk, and what is important in life, are the daily moments of humanity, the personal interaction, not the great movements of the seasons.
The balance of fast and slow moments within spring again is exemplified well within this first stanza. The first line of the stanza has an end stop, ‘came /‘, the ‘/‘ being a part of the text implemented by the poet. This enforced end stop slows the meter of the poem, perhaps suggests that ‘spring’ is lasting a long time.
The following line does the opposite to this technique, focusing on ‘winter’ and showing how quickly it left by using enjambment to follow the line, quickly moving on to the next season. The next season is ‘summer’, and like ‘winter’, it ‘will come’ and ‘will leave’ swiftly, and without significance.
On the fourth line arrives the first gap in the poem, spaces being between ‘leave; slowly’, emphasizing the slow nature of time passing. These constants ideas already set up in the poem, with Meléndez simultaneously showing Seasons to progress slowly and quickly. spring again is therefore about relativity, with the focus on ‘when no one’s expecting it / when people are tired of waiting’ showing this shifting perspective. The contrast between fast and slow is evident, the seasons arriving when people don’t expect it, and not when people are reading for the next one.
The idea of ‘waiting’ is expanded in this stanza of spring again, the punctuation used slowing the stanza and enforcing a slower meter. The use of space has a similar impact, with ‘a slow wait’ being represented through the actual structure of the stanza, a large gap coming before these words.
Stanza Three and Four
These stanzas are the only two that engage with natural imagery. Yet, the normal association of ‘spring’ and beautiful natural imagery is subverted, instead of focusing on ‘houseflys’ and the lack of ‘butterflies’. Spring is not elevated as a beautiful source of nature, with the city-born poet instead moving on to talk about humans in spring in the following stanzas.
Stanza Five and Six
There is a sense of something missing, a hint of melancholia within spring again. ‘The windows are open / but butterflies don’t fly in’, combined with the discussion of ‘dreams’ could be suggesting the lack of possibilities for the people within the poem. By focusing on ‘junkies’ and their ‘dreams’, something depicted as ‘dreams escape’, ‘become stolen’, ‘wasted’, Meléndez shows the impossibility of achieving dreams for these people. They are stuck in their situation, and continue year after year, season after season, in the same position and state. This tragic note to the poem is perhaps the reason why the actual progression of time is overshadowed by personal activities – it is more about the people being stuck in their situation than the season itself.
The sixth stanza focuses on the activities of the people, they play ‘stinkball’, and make music when they ‘bang on empty coke bottles’. This stanza demonstrates moments of happiness within the lives of the people stuck in their situation. Although they cannot escape, they have adapted the best they can, trying to thrive despite their circumstance.
spring again then becomes a focus on the future, ‘tomorrow’ shifting the tense of the poem to a future ‘will’. The repetition of ‘dreams’ arriving again in the poem suggests that the circumstances of these people will not change, they are doomed to repeat each day over and over.
Stanza Eight and Nine
More games are played within stanza eight, ‘hop stotch’ becoming what they want to play at the moment. It seems as if the people within the poem are doing anything to fill their time.
Finally, the last line of spring again turns to ‘summer’, ‘everyone will anticipate’ it’s coming, just like the last season and the season before. The poem is cyclic, further displaying the inescapability of circumstance.