Winter Poetry Beyond Robert Frost
As the Winter Solstice draws near and the trees slowly lose their yellowed leaves to stand stark against the sky, finding the book of poetry to accompany me through the season has become a top task on my to-do list. I’ve recently taken to reading seasonally, à la Carolyn Forché, as a surefire way to experience both the current season and my chosen collection more fully.
Of course, the consummate winter poet is Robert Frost, and for good reason. After all, his last name is Frost, and his work stands the test of time: those verses that strike children as merely pretty in their simplicity are rather complex and nuanced on an adult rereading.
That said, I have heard “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” quoted more than enough for my lifetime. This season, I instead intend to choose my reading from among those lesser-quoted, yet equally masterful poets that have written on the beauties and terrors of winter. Below are a few selected excerpts for your winter enjoyment (and to caption all your snowscape Instagrams):
Tonight snow-haze, moonlight. The moonlight jellyfish itself is floating before us. Our smiles on the way home. Bewitched avenue.
– Tomas Tranströmer, “Six Winters,” 6
You, rare as Georgia snow. Falling hard. Quick. Candle shadow.
– Kevin Young, “Ditty”
Time was slow snow sieving the night, a kind of love from the blurred moon; your small town swooning, unabashed, was Winter's own.
– Carol Ann Duffy, “Christmas Eve”
It SHUSHES It hushes The loudness in the road. It flitter-twitters And laughs away from me. It laughs a lovely whiteness And whitely whirls away To be Some otherwhere Still white as milk or shirts So beautiful it hurts.
– Gwendolyn Brooks, “Cynthia in the Snow”
It was beginning winter. The light moved slowly over the frozen field, Over the dry seed-crowns, The beautiful surviving bones Swinging in the wind.
– Theodore Roethke, “It was Beginning Winter”
Winter! I imagine you are old, I imagine you are wise, With a divine body of beating marble Which drags the weight of Time like a regal cloak… Winter, I love you and I am the spring… I blush, you snow: Because you know it all, Because I dream it all. We love each other like this!… On my bed all in white.
– Delmira Agustini, “Nocturno”
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus
C.K. Dawson is a poet and writer living in Los Angeles. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University and her work has appeared in Verily Magazine, Poetry International, Breakwater Review, and Ruminate Magazine. She has a deep fondness for literature-themed cocktails and mid-century modern furniture. You can usually find her in an L.A. coffee shop, instagramming her latte instead of working. This is her first piece for The Attic on Eighth.
Photo by Lauren Olmeda.