A Winter Verse

Sometime around Christmas I bought a used paperback copy of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens at a book fare in the mall.

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens.

The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens.

I have too many unread books still kicking around the house, but I thought 534 pages of verse for only a dollar was too good a deal to pass up.

I’ve read some of Wallace’s work before and found him to be a challenging read because of his vocabulary and his precision with language. But I think he’s worth investing the time, and as a writer who works full time in another profession, I am inspired by the fact that Stevens spent his career as an insurance lawyer and wrote poetry on the side. You can find out more about him here.

I haven’t started reading Wallace’s book yet, as I am working through the doorstopper of a novel The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, but I flipped through the volume and found a poem that seems suitable for mid-January when subzero temperatures reign. Here it is:

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

Tree “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.

Stevens, Wallace. The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, 1982. Originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1954.

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