American Poetry, Poetry

One Must Have A Mind Of Winter

Picking up on Les Kaye‘s theme of harmonizing our inner lives with the demands and responsibilities of work, it’s inspiring to look at a poet like Wallace Stevens who composed his poems while commuting to and from his job as a lawyer and businessman. A fervent advocate of the transformative power of the imagination, Stevens influenced many other 20th century poets, including Robert Bly, who penned a tribute to him from the first snowfall of the year. The Snow Man, then, is a beautiful meditation on the ‘mind of winter’ that can behold the cold freeze and not ‘think of any misery in the sound of the wind.’ It’s a poem imbued with a sense of healing, a strength cultivated over many seasons that has enabled the capacity for a wide-open kind of looking and listening.

 

 

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.

 

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
From: The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens

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