What is the speaker talking about in "Snowdrops"?
in "Snowdrops," the reader is addressed by a flower. Snowdrops are usually the first flowers to appear in the spring—where I live, I usually see them in late February. It is always a joy to see them—can warm weather be far behind?
The poem, however, is about the risk, and unexpectedness, of the flower's survival:
I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn't expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light of earliest spring—
As readers, we are challenged to empathize with the flower. Like the flower, we are meant to reflect on our own lives— do we risk everything to be in the world once more? Seen in this light, the poem becomes an expression of optimism in the face of extreme hardship. It's possible to read this as a poem about anxiety, about the fear of death (or of living), or about the fear of becoming vulnerable, of appearing before others. Perhaps, like the flower, we readers also "risk joy" in reading the poem.
The speaker describes her earlier condition impressionistically rather than graphically. Thus winter
“should have meaning for you”
(the listener or the reader) who, we may presume, can understand or may even have experienced cold feelings of despair. Considering existence from the standpoint of the personified snowdrop plant, we are hearing the agonized speech of a person who has likened her existence to snow: Life is brief like snow, and therefore the speaker
“did not expect to survive, … to waken again.”
Because the snowdrop has been allowed to live again, she states that she has resolved to face life, even though she is still “afraid.” It might be interesting to think about the issue of why she is afraid. Is she afraid because she does not know the future beyond the next cycle? Or is she afraid more of living than of dying?