The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The sixty lines of “April Inventory” comprise ten stanzas of six lines each. The stanzas consist of a quatrain followed by a couplet, rhyming ababcc. Though W. D. Snodgrass varies the metric foot in many of his lines, the basic structure is iambic tetrameter. Many of the structural features create an interplay between fluidity and disconnection, between pause and flow. All the stanzas are closed, for example, and within all but two of them the concluding couplet is set off from the quatrain by punctuation. These minor divisions create distinct units of thought, while other features—such as the repetition of words, enjambment, and rhyme—sustain the poem’s continuity.

The focus of the speaker’s subjectivity is established from the beginning. The blooming of the trees reminds him of his own failure to blossom, both academically and personally. They will lose their flowers and leaves, and he will lose his teeth and hair, not to be replenished by another spring as the flowers and leaves will be. In the fourth stanza, as the speaker turns from the spring blossoms and their symbolic meaning to the academic world, the natural and the human elements merge. The girls he teaches have the pinkness of the cherry blossom, and they “Bloom gradually out of reach,” as the cherry tree does. His attention broadens to include his friends, parents, and psychoanalyst—all those who expect him to flower—as he reviews his failure in academic pursuits:...

(The entire section is 557 words.)