Monday’s Verse 1-21-08

Dear Friends,

One of my all-time faves today, one that’s been featured here at least once before. It’s finally getting cold in New York (note that I do not mention this as a good thing), so we revisit Wallace Stevens‘ “The Snow Man.” I can remember reading this the first time–I was at an outdoor T stop in Boston. I don’t know if it was cold out but it gave me the shivers–something about the skillful and dramatic use of repetition, I think. Also the observant solitude in so many WS (1879-1955) poems gets me in the heart every time. There’s a wonderful radio piece from NPR here

where commentator Jay Keyser calls the poem “a recipe for seeing things as they really are.” I think we’d have to add imagery and repetition to his reading, which focuses on conjunctions and balance, to get a deep analysis of the poem, but his take is great for the purposes of our group. It’s only about 3 minutes long; I’d recommend looking at the printed page while listening, if possible. Stay warm! -ed.

The Snow Man

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. 

–from Harmonium, 1923


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