Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow Poems

Today church is cancelled because of snow. New snow did fall here in Lynden last night, and the wind has been drifting it. This morning when I took my dog out, our yesterday's footprints were gone, and we had to trample and break through the perfect snow for the most mundane of purposes. But my dog and I are a part of nature, too. Our footprints, and his territorial markings, are part of the natural world.

I was looking online for poetry about being snowed in. I was thinking I'd find something by Emerson or some other New England poet that would almost perfectly talk about looking out your window on a snowy Sunday morning, being warm inside while it's cold outside, being in your family home while the weather makes wilderness around you. Of course, I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but I did find some good stuff I wasn't looking for, two poems by Mary Oliver. I had not known of her or her work before this morning, but it seems she is a New England poet by choice and by influence, as well as a Midwestern one by birth and upbringing.

Here are two poems by Mary Oliver:

Beyond the Snow Belt
Mary Oliver

Over the local stations, one by one,
Announcers list disasters like dark poems
That always happen in the skull of winter.
But once again the storm has passed us by:
Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down
While shouting children hurry back to play,
And scarved and smiling citizens once more
Sweep down their easy paths of pride and welcome.

And what else might we do? Let us be truthful.
Two counties north the storm has taken lives.
Two counties north, to us, is far away, -
A land of trees, a wing upon a map,
A wild place never visited, - so we
Forget with ease each far mortality.

Peacefully from our frozen yards we watch
Our children running on the mild white hills.
This is the landscape that we understand, -
And till the principle of things takes root,
How shall examples move us from our calm?
I do not say that is not a fault.
I only say, except as we have loved,
All news arrives as from a distant land.

My comments: Three stanzas: eight lines, six lines, eight lines. Unrhymed iambic pentameter (blank verse) - the form favored by Shakespeare, Milton, and Frost. The content I leave to you.

Snow Geese
Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
The geese
flew on,
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won't.
It doesn't matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

My comments: I did not count the feet in this one yet; perhaps they would yield an interesting pattern. She breaks up the lines for rhyme: last-task-ask, our-hours; and perhaps to mimic the sense of intense, short experience about which she writes. My favorite lines:

as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.

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