Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Poem on the Occasion of the Polar Vortex

How often does one get to write that sort of subject line? Not often, that's how often. Thus, for this historic deep freeze, a poem you surely know… but have you read it lately? Hmph. I thought not. Quick now: make amends.

The Snow Man
    Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

And for those of you who enjoy matters of prosody (by which I mean: everybody), I highly recommend Robert Pinksy's The Sounds of Poetry, which includes a discussion of the metrical felicities of this poem: "variations in degree of accent, variations in difference between an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable, and a varying play between accent and duration all have a part in creating the rhythm" of this single sentence flowing "inside and across lines." Isn't that nice?! Perfect cozy reading for a polar vortex. 

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