Celebrating Six Seasons of Reading Local in Vermont: WINTER

The News From Poems Winter

The News From Poems Winter

Winter poetry from “It could be verse”

“It could be verse” began as a monthly poetry column first published by The Chronicle of Orleans County in Barton, VT in April 2007. Each column features a poem of season and place by a Vermont writer. The purpose of both the column and this website is: to put poetry where people can find it. Another goal is to help Vermonters to “Read Local” (as a natural continuation of the “Buy Local” and “Eat Local” campaigns). Because there are so many extraordinary writers in our communities, the column serves as an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse poetic voices in this state, our literary terroir. This website features a selection of 18 of the 50 original columns (published in The Chronicle from 2007-2011). In January 2012, the monthly poetry column became a syndicated project issued from this site, offered gratis to all Vermont newspapers to publish at their discretion.

Winter Storm

by Julia Alvarez

It’s snowing hard in the Green Mountains,
I haven’t seen Mount Abe all morning,
Just the white blur of an expanding storm
In the distance, while closer by, the town
Is a pincushion of flickering lights
Pricking through the haze. Hard to believe
The blowing snow is not the fallout from
This deepening depression that descends
And deadens everything. It’s snowing hard
In the pasture below, the sheep are lost

In the commotion of the fleecy air,
So that it takes a leap of more than faith
To trust that they’re still pasturing there.
My husband left in a whirlwind of snow,
As if his car were being whisked away
Into some other world, leaving me here
To shovel out the silence on my own.
It’s snowing hard in slanted lines across
The drifting driveway, muted fields,
In no time I’ll be snowbound, no way out

To the small town where friends might take me in
And reassure me I’ve had a bad dream
I’m free to wake up from. It’s snowing hard
For days now in the thicket of my heart
In which no ram appears to stop my hand
From plunging doubt’s knives into what I love
As the snows come down and all my Isaacs die,
Every last one of them from lack of faith,
And it keeps snowing until nothing’s left
Except the emptiness of the blank page.

The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
Weather without, within

In the poem, ‘Storm Warning,’ poet Adrienne Rich writes that “…weather abroad /and weather in the heart alike come on regardless of prediction.” In her memoir Dakota, Kathleen Norris intersperses chapters of unfolding narrative with flash chapters, one- page passages of emotionally charged scenes, which she calls, “weather reports.”
In this poem, ‘Winter Storm’ by Julia Alvarez, from her book, The Woman I Kept to Myself, Alvarez describes and explores the inner and outer feeling of a storm. Lines evoking the thickening snow pile up, till near the poem’s end, the reader also feels disturbingly enclosed by a white burden abroad and a white out within. A friend of mine calls this experience “an attack of the doubt birds.” I refer to my inclement weather as “shame storms.” Alvarez captures the treachery beautifully with the line, “…no ram appears to stop my hand/ from plunging doubt’s knives into what I love…” Paradoxically, the balm of this poem lies in Alvarez’ ability to order the storm. By recreating the despair in her language, in her stanzas, in her imagination, she reverses the storm’s overwhelm. She digs (excavates?) a path out with each sentence, with her pen.

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on January 20, 2010

Scout

by Bob Arnold

Here you are again
Late at night
Snow falling in the valley
Life in snowshoes

Hardly faraway from home
In fact, isn’t that the glow
Of the kitchen lamp
Lighting through the trees

I’ve spent the better part
Of darkness stamping in
A mile wide circle enjoying
The measure of going nowhere

Stand with me
Waste some time
Everything you’ve always wanted
Is all around you.

The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
Here you are again

When my friend Paulus asks, “Who else is here?” – even though he happens to be sitting alone behind his house next to the mountains of western North Carolina– he induces himself to become aware of the more than human life around him. “Sycamore, Carolina Wren, Rhododendron, Redbird [--that's what they call Cardinals down south],” his extended attention might reply.

In The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram, the author proposes: we are never alone. He calls this “the reciprocal nature of direct perception.” In more accessible language, he points out, “To touch the coarse skin of a tree is…to feel oneself touched by the tree. And to see the world, is also at the same time, to experience oneself as visible, to feel myself seen…we can experience things – can touch, hear, and taste things…because we are ourselves included in the sensible field…our sentient bodies are entirely continuous with the vast body of land.”

Now I’ll bet my left snowshoe Guilford, VT poet Bob Arnold was not attempting to make any statements about interrelated sentient attention when he wrote ‘Scout’, a poem in his book, Where Rivers Meet. And I’ll bet my remaining snowshoe that his verse was born from simply catching himself in mid-joy, at midnight, in mid-life, having just made another loop around something he loves, sort of like the terrestrial equivalent of a wedding ring.

Last week I learned the word, Soliphilia – a fancy term for the belief that the sanity of a landscape and the sanity of the human mind are entwined. If so, this makes proceeding “in a mile wide circle/ enjoying the measure of going nowhere” “wasting time” amid the snow, valley, and trees, as Dickenson would put it, Divinest Sense.

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on March 3, 2010

Another Garden

by William Mundell

 

Did you see flame
dying in October leaves?
Did you wake to frost;
lie down in plenty,
arise in want?

Where now can we graze
on green wild-growing?

Asters have moved to stars.
The moon is one pumpkin.
Shall we furrow the sky’s loam
tap its misty seas,
toil in a stubborn soil
studded with stone
of constellations?

Shall we knock our hoes
against Orion and the Pleiades?

The News From Poems Mud
*It could be verse:
Another Garden

Thoreau wrote in his journal in January, 1854, “While the milkmen in the outskirts are milking so many scores of cows before sunrise these winter mornings, it is our task to milk the winter itself… It took the cold bleakness of November to ripen a walnut, but the human brain is the kernel in which winter itself matures…Then there is the great harvest of the year, the harvest of thought.”

Poet William Mundell, raised in a farm in Newfane, VT might have agreed with Thoreau on this matter. In a poem from his collection, Ploughman’s Earth, first published in 1974, Mundell asks a series of questions about a farmer’s field work, which concludes when the snow takes hold. His questions begin with elegant exasperation, as if, used to continuous physical labor in the terrestrial world he is lost for what to tend next. By the poem’s third stanza, Mundell has begun to eye a new field to cultivate through the winter months, and though preposterous, for of course he can’t make hay in the Milky Way, the limitless space above invokes the work of the imagination. Perhaps he seeded, tended, weeded and harvested this poem through the days and months when nothing else would grow.

*column first appeared in the Barton Chronicle on December 16, 2009

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