‘First Warm Night in April’ by Stephen G. Perrin

I learned this poem from a friend in the mid-1970s. We were part of a bi-weekly writing workshop at the Andover, Mass., public library called The Poets’ Lab. The group stayed together for three or four years, branching out to do readings in most of the towns and cities in our part of the Merrimack Valley, usually at the libraries. Area newspapers ran stories about the local poets. The first group reading at the Andover library drew a large crowd; the low point was a reading scheduled at the Salem, N.H., library on a Saturday afternoon when not one person showed up to hear us. We went out for beers instead. At some point we changed the name of the group to the Merrimack Valley Poets. In addition to Stephen G. Perrin, a writer and photographer who lived in Andover during those years, the members of the group included at different times Cynthia Ward, Wayne Nalbadian, Ken Skulski, Tom Mofford, Anne Fleming, Eric Linder, Esther Weisslitz, Kathleen Aponick, Marilyn (last name?), and Charlie Brunault. At its peak, the workshop would draw 20 to 30 writers to an upstairs meeting room at the library on Andover’s main street. Other than my time at the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at the University of California, Irvine, The Poets’ Lab was the only writing workshop I’ve been involved with. I was starting out in those years, and it was an important opportunity to meet and learn from other writers, some of whom had published their work. Esther was an accomplished poet whose work had appeared in The New Yorker. She was amazingly generous to me, taking an interest in my poems and even sending a few to the poetry editor of The New Yorker, Howard Moss, who had put her work in the magazine. Howard didn’t take one of my poems, but just knowing that someone believed I had the potential was fortifying. I don’t know many of my own poems by heart, but this poem of Steve Perrin’s has stayed with me, and I remember it every spring. Here’s a link to Stephen Perrin’s blog. He lives in Maine.–PM


First Warm Night in April


The first warm night in April,

Sweating in my winter bed,

I woke in the dark and knew

Spring had come—forsythia

Sprayed from every fissure

Of my defrosting brain.


—Stephen G. Perrin (c) 1976, 2015