Poetry & Song: “Eve of Spring” and Anathema’s “Lightning Song”

Do you listen to music while you write? Has a specific song or music artist ever influenced one of your stories, poems, etc.? This has happened with a number of my published poems. Thus, Poetry & Song is a limited-run series where I share one of my published poems and the song that “helped me write” it. I also offer insights into why I chose that particular piece of music, as well as any other inspirations for the poem.

After the amazing response to the first Poetry & Song post back in May, I knew I’d have to write another one down the road. Today happens to be a good day for that, because… um, well, September 5th is my birthday. (*blushes*) But that’s all the attention it’s getting. Instead, the joy and gratitude I always feel on this day gives me reason for blogging about “Eve of Spring.”

What? You say spring was five months ago? Who’s counting, though? 😉

Today I’m sharing “Eve of Spring” and the life-changing song I listened to as I wrote it. And together, both pieces were among the saving graces that helped me through one of the most challenging periods in my life.

First, click here to read “Eve of Spring” at the Curry Arts Journal’s website, or here to see a photo of its page in the printed journal. Feel free to keep the tab / window open as you read this post.

A Winter of Depression, and a Desire to Move Forward

I wrote “Eve of Spring” on the last night of winter in 2012. It wasn’t a coincidence: I purposely chose that night to write a poem about spring, to help me move on from the dark, frightening, and troubling season that had preceded it.

That winter, starting in December 2011, I went through a period of situational depression. Two of my closest friendships at the time fell apart; and despite being surrounded by other people who loved and cared about me, I’d never felt so lonely.

I’d fight the urge to cry all day long. Sometimes I sobbed myself to sleep at night. Very little would cheer me up or make me smile. I’d try to avoid conversations for fear that people would notice I was upset; and when I couldn’t avoid them, I did my best to hide my feelings. Yet even when I isolated myself, I craved connection. It was like I was waiting for people to reach out to me, to ask how I was doing or see if we could get together, even though I couldn’t bring myself to make that effort.

Some of this sounds contradictory, I know. But it was (and still is) difficult to describe my depression in a way that would make sense to everyone. I simply knew how I felt, and it surparssed unhappiness or loneliness. It was like a cloak of darkness and tears, made from a heavy and impenetrable cloth, and I couldn’t shake it off no matter how hard I tried.

I will say, though, that I was never suicidal. In fact, I still functioned normally to a degree. I got out of bed, went to work, visited family, and took care of daily responsiblities. But it was almost robotic, with the belief that I had nothing to look forward to and fearing that things would never get better.

That’s when I realized that I needed help – and the only person who could give myself that help was me.

I told my parents what was going on, and they supported and encouraged my decision to seek therapy. By the end of February, I began visiting a counselor on a weekly basis. It was through those sessions that I learned what I had was likely situational depression (which is typically short term and a result of traumatic life changes such as divorce, retirement, death of a loved one, or other losses), and that I might have experienced other depressive episodes in the past (high school and my freshman year of college).

I can’t pinpoint when I stared feeling consistently happier and more hopeful. It took several months to get to that point. But I do remember when things began turning around. Because not only did I write “Eve of Spring,” on the eve of my favorite season’s return, but an abundance of transformative gifts (for lack of better wording) came my way, including the album I consider my all-time favorite.

Enter Anathema’s Weather Systems and “Lightning Song”

Around the time I began seeing my therapist, I received a promo copy of Anathema‘s upcoming album Weather Systems through my freelance work at Sonic Cathedral. I was already a fan of the British prog rock band, so I contacted their PR agency to arrange an interview with one of the singers (which fell through in the end) and downloaded the promo. The latter was, along with seeking therapy, the best decision I made that winter.

Weather Systems, as a whole, is a work of art. The simple lyrics, collaborative vocals (Anathema has two male singers and one female), and richly textured music bed of acoustic, electric, and orchestral sounds make it an intense, aesthetically stunning experience. But when you listen to it often enough, and deeply enough, it reminds you that our lives and emotions are like the weather, constantly shifting from turbulence to calm, from distress to healing, from loss to hope. Some songs cut so close to the bone that you feel the ache. Others have the power to lift you high enough to reach the stars.

“Lighting Song” is one of those uplifting tracks. It starts off gentle and swaying, gradually building as other instruments and Lee Douglas’s vocals drift in, then crashing and colliding with all the power and beauty of a spring rainstorm. And above it all, Lee belts out:

This world is wonderful, so beautiful
If only you can open up your mind and see
Your world is everything you ever dreamed of
If only you can open up your mind and see

I can’t tell how you many times I cried while listening to “Lightning Song” before I even wrote “Eve of Spring.” At first it was because I wanted so badly to feel the joy and gratitude it exuded. Months later, it still made my cry because I did feel that way, and because of the journey it took to find that feeling again.

And on that last night of winter, I listened to “Lightning Song” so I could write a poem. I wanted to connect my favorite season to the emotions it symbolizes (hope, joy, and renewal / rebirth) through brief but expressive examples from nature. I wanted to voice my desire to move on from the loss and sadness that had held me down for months, so I could be lighter, freer, and optimistic. I wanted to commit myself to positive change – and for a writer, what better what to do that than through writing, and with a song that radiates all of those qualities and intentions playing in the background?

Me reading at the Curry Arts Journal’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, October 2013 (courtesy of Curry College)

The Rest of the Story Behind “Eve of Spring”

After a few revisions, “Eve of Spring” was published in October 2013 as part of the 40th anniversary edition of the Curry Arts Journal. This particular journal has special meaning to me: It’s the literary magazine for my alma mater Curry College. And for their 40th anniversary, the CAJ staff invited alumni who had been published in the journal as students to submit new work. (I had an essay published there during my freshman year in 2004 and a couple poems during my senior year in 2007.) So when I read the email, I thought, “How can I say ‘no’?”

The cover of the 40th anniversary issue of the Curry Arts Journal.

That October, the CAJ staff also held a reading of the 40th anniversary issue during Curry’s homecoming weekend. My memory of my reading is a little foggy; I’m pretty sure I read “Eve of Spring” and the other two poems that were included. What I remember most, though, were the people who were there: a mix of current students, alumni (my friend Brittany among them), and several teachers, including a few whose classes I’d taken when I was a student. It was such a warm, supportive atmosphere, made all the more energetic as we celebrated not just the journal’s longevity and the writers’ achievements, but the love of the written word in general. And it was great to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a few years.

Today, I’m deeply proud of “Eve of Spring,” just like I am with all of my published poems. But I’m also profoundly thankful for being inspired and strong enough to write it. It became one of several baby steps forward that helped me recover from that depressive period. Plus, having written that poem, I look forward to the first day of spring with even more delight, anticipation, and gratitude than I did when I was younger. In fact, when I read “Eve of Spring,” a part of me wants to do all the things the poem speaks of – even running through the rain and watching “nature’s madness at work” in the shelter of a gazebo.

And yes, “Lightning Song” still prompts a lump in my throat every time I hear it. 🙂

What memorable experiences have you had with writing while listening to music? Have any songs or compositions “helped you write” a difficult piece of writing (poem, essay, scene for a story, etc.)? Also, what song(s) have cheered you up or changed your perspective on life? 

17 thoughts on “Poetry & Song: “Eve of Spring” and Anathema’s “Lightning Song”

    • First, wow, that poem is amazing. These two lines in particular, “Self-pity, I’ve learned, only means more suffering / the longer you let it snow on you” really spoke out to me, I think because I’ve been in a self-pity rut for a while, but the entire poem. Amazing. Spring’s never been my favorite season, simply because I have allergies that are worst in the spring, but after this last winter was very hard for me (I suspect I may have some form of seasonal depression or something), I very strongly felt the desire for spring to come, to…run out the door to greet the sun!

      Secondly, happy birthday! My birthday is on the 10th, so it’s kinda funny how close they are!

      I’ve had so many songs inspire me, or affect my writing in some way, it’s hard to remember all of them. Some of them were in minor ways, like some lyric just sparked some inspiration, and some were more profound, in that they helped me through some kind of difficult period in my own life?
      The most recent profound one, that I can recall, wasn’t actually from the entire song, but just two lyrics, which were “As you’re facing the path that divides / Ah, I will always be here by your side”. (It’s part of a concept album, so it’s really two hours of a very interesting storyline, and so taking the one song out of context is weird, but must be done.) The two lyrics kind of just reminded me that I wasn’t alone, and that I could handle everything. It made me cry a lot.
      Another is “Discard Your Fear” by Riverside. Anytime I want to be encouraged, I listen to that song and wow. Works every time.

      Also, out of curiosity, I’ve noticed that we seem to have some similar tastes in music, which I’ve always found very rare (nobody’s ever heard of my favorite artists), so I have to ask, have you ever heard/listen to Dream Theater or Riverside?

      Liked by 1 person

      • To your first comment: LOL! And OMG, you knew the song already?! When I talk about Anathema, most people have never heard of the band. So I got a little excited when I read that from you.

        Thanks for your comments re: the poem itself. 🙂 And I’m glad to hear it spoke to you. That’s the most that the poet in me hopes for from readers. And I completely understand why some people don’t like spring so much (especially due to allergies – I don’t have them, but I know how awful they can be). I’m personally not a fan of fall or winter (especially winter, but let’s not go there just yet!) even though I know some people love either season.

        Happy birthday to you too! 🙂 Yay for September birthdays!

        Those are lovely examples of songs that have lifted you when you needed it most.
        And I know what you mean about some songs inspiring you in their totality, and sometimes with just a line or two. I swear I’d just thought of an example of the latter… except I can’t remember it now. *lol* I’d probably have to comb through my iTunes library to remember which ones – they are so many!

        Yes, I’ve heard of Dream Theater and Riverside (more familiar with DT than the latter), though I don’t have any of their albums. I should change that one of these days… Any recommendations for a newbie?

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      • I’m not overly familiar with the band’s other songs, but yeah Lightning Song is amazing! Do you have any other recommendations by them? I’d love to hear some of their other works.

        Yeah, hehe, allergies aren’t great. I have mixed feelings about fall and winter.

        Oh yeah I’d have to comb through my iTunes library also, heheh.

        Hmm. Dream Theater’s newest album, Astonishing, is fantastic, but it’s a 2-hour concept album and a little intimidating. I think I’d recommend, maybe their album Images and Words? I love that album quite a lot. As for Riverside, the first album I heard was Rapid Eye Movement, but I think my favorite album is Second Life Syndrome.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Actually, this post I’d done a couple years ago might be a good starting point for other Anathema songs: https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2015/04/02/an-ode-to-anathema/. Besides those, I’d also recommend “Untouchable” Parts 1 and 2, “A Natural Disaster,” “Universal,” “Springfield”… and I’ll stop there. XD

        I’ll try to check out those Dream Theater and Riverside albums when I have a chance. YouTube is a blessing sometimes, isn’t it? 🙂 Thanks, by the way!

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  1. I love your poem and the story behind it, Sara. So beautiful and moving… Grief is always so hard to deal with – no wonder you became depressed. It takes great courage and a big heart to break through that terrible muffling shell that encases one once we fall into despair.

    I think music and writing is often tightly interwoven – The Sunblinded Trilogy was spawned after hearing Regina Spektor’s song ‘Sampson’, though writing the aliens in ‘Breathing Space’ was helped along by Mike Oldfield’s album Amarok. A great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sarah, for the birthday wish as well as your comments on the poem. *hugs*

      I agree, grief is so hard to reckon with. It’s hard to know how to cope with it unless you’ve experienced the same / similar source over time. The only other profound losses I’d known before then were the deaths of my grandparents. But watching friendships dissolve and knowing there’s nothing you can do to fix them… that’s something else entirely. So I’m incredibly grateful for taking the steps that I did to pull myself out of it. And I’m just as thankful for Anathema’s music, too.

      I remember you mentioning the Regina Spektor song before and how it inspired the Sunblinded books. And Amarok! I listened to the full-length album on YouTube after you first recommended it and really enjoyed it. I might have to invest in my own copy sometime soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s a saying ‘that which does not kill you makes you stronger’ and I think you epitomise that with your courage and unwillingness to allow your grief to engulf you. xx

        I’m glad you enjoyed Amarok – I’m a real fan of Mike Oldfield’s music and write a lot to his compositions:).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your description of situational depression completely resonates with me… I know it’s hard to find the words, but those who’ve felt it can harmonize. I’ve had it too, and treated it too, and writing and therapy both helped me climb out. It makes me feel all glow-y that you took those feelings and made it into something beautiful. To me, that’s the highest form of art. So proud of you, friend 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Actually, I thought of you as I wrote this post, Leanne. I’d re-read your mission statement piece at DIY MFA recently, and I remembered that part about your own experience with depression. So I’m glad that writing helped you pull out of your own, too. Writing can truly be a life-saver, can’t it? 🙂

      Thank you for reading and commenting, by the way. *hugs*

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is beautiful, Sara. I love the imagery in Eve of Spring.
    “Everyone longs
    to be acknowledged like the first flower of March…”
    I can relate to so many of those emotions. Thank you for sharing with us.

    I’m listening to Lightning Song right now, and enjoying it! I’m going to have to check out more of their music.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, E. That’s one of my favorite lines in the poem, too. 🙂

      If you like “Lightning Song,” a few other Anathema songs you might also like are “Ariel,” “Untouchable Part 2” (Part 1 is great, too), “The Lost Song Part 2” (that Part 1 is also good), “Endless Ways,” and “Everything.” There’s also “The Gathering of the Clouds,” which acts almost like an intro to “Lightning Song.” If you pay attention to how the former ends, you’ll hear how the music directly leads into the latter. 😉

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  4. I’m amazed how similarly writers think at times. A few days ago I started working on a blog posts series about how some of my stories were born. The kind of “behind the scenes” or creation process posts. And now I’m reading your post and can’t help smiling as you did exactly the same thing.
    I really enjoyed this post (even though I can guess that revisiting some of these memories wasn’t easy) and I love how music inspired you to write. I have songs like that too: the ones that nag and pull and don’t let go until a story is written.
    Also, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Anathema (maybe a song here or there… or on your blog 😉 ), but I’ll give it a go.

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    • Funny how that happens sometimes, huh? 🙂 And I’m definitely interested in reading your “behind the scenes” post once it’s ready!

      And you’re right, Joanna. Eve of Spring wasn’t an easy poem to write, given the memories and feelings I had to revisit. But when I feel a need to write something – almost a physiological sensation, like something is trying to claw its way out – that desire is always stronger than any fears or distress I’m feeling. It’s how I got through writing the poem about the Boston Marathon bombings, too.

      *lol* Yeah, I’ve talked about Anathema’s music quite a bit on the blog this year. 🙂 But if you’re ever looking for recommendations for their songs, I’d be happy to offer some!

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