Poetry Friday: The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens

Michelle  Barnes is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at Today’s Little Ditty

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The farmhouse, winter or 2018

The first blast of winter arrived last week: snow, ice, and bitterly cold temperatures.  I had been preparing myself for attending to farm chores (what I refer to as “barning”) in winter ever since last winter, my first such season spent full time at the farm.

There were practical things to do in preparation: move the chickens to their winter coop, purchase heated buckets so that all my critters could have access to fresh water instead of blocks of ice, and prepare the sheep stall with deep bedding for warmth.

And then there was the mind set preparation: hauling out all the gear necessary to stay warm, to keep the pathways clear, to be ready to trudge over ice.

Each season here in the north east has its distinctive look and feel, and although I love the colors (and warmth!) of Spring, Summer, and Fall, there is something about the stark beauty of winter that I have grown to love since moving to the farm.  The evergreens, lost among the greenery of oaks and maples and birch during the rest of the year, make their presence known with  grandeur.  And the landscape makes itself known in an entirely different way when it’s under a thick blanket of snow, especially on moonlit nights.

I guess I’ve learned to listen to winter…

The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens

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.

7 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens

  1. Oh, I love this poem so much….it’s such a mastery of words. I’ve had this poem on my work table for a few months now. I’m working with the words and imagining the illustrations. I love the idea of Snow Man that can be more than one meaning. Perfect poem to describe winter’s arrival.

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  2. Tara, I am so glad that you joined Poetry Friday this week. Being in Albany for a state ed conference, I realized how the season plays out in different locales. Early winter with its chilled weather and surrounding silence makes us want to listen to the wind or the stillness as it settles on the snow. Your descriptions lured me into Stevens’ poem with anticipation of what was to come. Enjoy your barning in winter. I would love to hear more about your experiences. What you are doing is fascinating.

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  3. I love winter, too, despite the driving challenges. I won’t ever live on a farm as you are, but envy the vast spaces that greet you, and still in the city, I bundle up to go walking, or just to clean off my car! This poem is a favorite, without fanfare celebrating the evergreen beauty otherwise masked by the deciduous crowd! Thanks, Tara, for the poem reminder. (FYI, your link takes us to a summer post.)

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  4. This poem is one to sit with an contemplate on a cold winter day. Extreme landscapes and weather have a way of giving us those “nothing himself” moments.

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  5. I’ve learned to enjoy snowy winters, too, in the 40+ years since moving to Eastern Washington from the Deep South. We had a winter season in due course but not magical snow scenes right out of The Nutcracker ballets I grew up loving. Thank you for describing your farm after the first snowfall. Sounds lovely — except for all that work!

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  6. Love that “postcard” photo, Tara—such a beautiful home you have! I can only imagine what a learning curve you must have gone through last year, but now you’re a barning pro! Thank you for sharing the beautiful Wallace Stevens poem with your narrative—you and he definitely seem to be on the same wavelength!

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