Welcome back, blog readers! I hope your holiday season was filled with happiness and light!
After a seasonal hiatus, I planned to resume regular posts on January 16th but missed blogging so much that I decided to start the 2018 posts today.
In this part of the world, we’re deeply immersed in winter. Where I live, after a very mild autumn, the first winter temperatures have been frigid. As I write this today, the thermometer on my backyard deck reads 4º F. There was a snowstorm during the week and, after snow blowing and digging out, my little town has settled into a deep freeze. With snow and cold on my mind, I thought it might be an appropriate time to write snow poems.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote that falling snow is a “poem of the air," where the “troubled sky reveals the grief it feels.” Air and grief—not obviously associated with snow, but both are evocative words that make me wonder what other snow-inspired words and phrases we might come up with. What “snow words” and images occur to you?
1. Think in terms of emotions and the emotions conjured up by the idea of snow or memories of it.
2. Write a poem in which you employ personification (told from the perspective of snow or perhaps from the perspective of a wild creature (squirrel, deer, wolf, bird) that struggles to survive the cold.
2. Write a snow haiku.
Example haiku from my book Not Asking What If:
snow in the air—
the graveyard gate opens
on rusty hinges
3. Write a snow haibun (begin with a prose passage or paragraph and end with a haiku).
4. Although winter is traditionally known as the “dark season,” there is much in winter and snow that is not bleak or lifeless. Robert Frost wrote in “Dust of Snow," about a crow’s movements that cause snow to dust the speaker as he passes under a tree. According to Frost, this dust “Has given my heart / A change of mood / And saved some part / Of a day I had rued.” Is there an upbeat or positive snow moment like this one that you recall and might write about?
5. Recreate a snowy landscape from a winter memory. Or, if you live in a tropical climate, a place where there is no snow, create an imaginary snow scene and write about it.
6. You might want to use a photograph or painting of snow as inspiration for an ekphrastic poem.
Example: An ekphrastic poem that I wrote based on Monet’s Snow Scene at Argenteuil. Published: The Good Men Project, December 8, 2017
Just Enough Spectacle
(After Snow Scene at Argenteuil by Claude Monet)
It’s that time—ice-sliver and ache—frost at the sides of our eyes. This is the cold season, the winding down. When we were children, we imagined wolves in the woods, amber eyes between trees—excitement more than fear—a beauty that caught inside our breath, deep in the joy we lived for. Unaware of the ground beneath us, we walked into those woods (sometimes astonished), hands open inside our wooly mittens.
Childhood ponds skate into space; and, yes, this is winter—the calendar’s last portion. Just past dawn’s shadow, light flits over the top of things, like the end of another year seen through snow—just enough spectacle to offset time and age, to silence the “I” in who we’ve become.
7. Write about a snow globe. How about writing from the viewpoint of whatever is inside the snow globe—looking out from inside?
1. Keep your imagery tight and use images to evoke a “snow mood.” Remember to show and not simply tell.
2. Watch out for clichéd images. Examine your poems carefully and note any phrases or lines that seem familiar or general. Work to create images that are striking and fresh—distinctive and different. Think in terms of similes, metaphors, and other types of figurative language, and how you can use these to enhance your images. I love this related quote from W. H. Auden: [A poem] “must say something significant about a reality common to us all, but perceived from a unique perspective.” That unique perspective can be articulated through imagery.
3. Be on the lookout for relative pronouns (that, which, whom, who). If you find one in your poem, try reconfiguring the sentence without it.
4. Your line breaks should have a kind of logic that’s clear but doesn’t intrude.
5. Find a form for your poem (stanzaic arrangement) that enhances the meaning of your words.
6. Don’t be afraid to challenge the ordinary, to create a new resonance for your readers.
7. Remember that a poem should mean more than the words it contains. Go for obvious and unstated meanings.