Jan 6, 2014

Wallace Stevens' "The Snow Man" Again


http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15745



It's hard not to talk about snow in our foot of the stuff and our single-digit temps. So, while I consider other poems on the subject, let's return to Wallace Stevens' "The Snow Man," which is surely humanity's best poem on snow and one of our best poems, period. As I've said before here, the key to the poem is coming to terms with Stevens' "one must have a mind of winter." Is a mind of winter a good thing--for Stevens? For you?



http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15745










17 comments:

John Evans said...

He's right.

One must prepare oneself for winter, its deprivation of warmth and light and color. That applies to winters in Southern California as well as Latitude 48 North.

Interesting transition:

In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land

-- as if he's saying, you must ignore the reality.

And the last two lines characterizing winter -- and ourselves -- as nothing.

Stickup Artist said...

I'd love to have a "mind full of winter." But, this year, that only entails a change in the light, a lengthening of shadows, and frigid temps at night in the desert. The days are incredibly dry and warm even for here; I'm wearing shorts and tank tops mostly.

But, I can so relate to the "January sun" and "the sound of the wind," which I love, no matter where and when; especially when alone, taking my photographs. It is always the best music. I can hear it now...

Stickup Artist said...

Was so caught up in the sound of the wind that I forgot to mention that I especially enjoyed your snow photos! They are quite beautiful to me...

Banjo52 said...

John, I like your point about the transition. And all that nothing--it's no sweet nothing, I think. The closure is about as chilling as poetry I know.

Stickup, thanks. I think I'd miss the seasons, even this one, my least favorite, if I were in a permanently warm climate. Do most SoCal folks see ("regard," "behold") the features of January that your keen eye and mind capture?

-K- said...

"For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."

Until now I never knew that Stevens wrote the "nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." I've seen it referred to often enough to have sensed that something famous was being quoted and now, thanks to you, I know where it comes from.

A beautiful piece of work.

Stickup Artist said...

The other 4 years I've been out here, a half hour drive, sometimes less, could get me to some snow. A bit longer and you can be in a mountain blizzard. But this year has been very extremely warm and dry.

Californians complain they are freezing at around 50 degrees and a steady rainfall can tie up the freeways like you wouldn't believe. We laugh about it.

Banjo52 said...

K, thanks. You're a poet with a camera, so I'm glad to have offered something helpful. To be so philosophical, it's also a rather visual poem, don't you think?

Stickup, interesting--and I've seen that in your photos. But I'm still trying to get a handle on your part of So Cal.

RuneE said...

First: My compliments regarding the photos. I'm well used to snow (though not this year) and snow photography, but I would have been proud if they were mine.

Nothing is a very interesting theme. It has fascinated and frightened many for centuries. By coincidence, I'm at the moment reading an essay collection from the British magazine "New Scientist" which takes a rather unusual approach. Highly recommended - so far.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I'm dumbstruck by that last photo. Reminds me a little bit of the painting of artist Peter Doig

Pasadena Adjacent said...

...and we love our winters in Southern California. When you live in Los Angeles year round, you crave water, and fall, with it's change of color, Santa Annas and golden light starts the anticipation process. A kind of opposite to this poem in that "Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is" for me, is our endless summer with it's dried grass, repeating heat waves and smog

Jeff M said...

Hello Banjo, it's Jeff M from old here. You ask, as Stevens does, is it correct to "have a mind of winter?" Yes. I now live in Western New York, specifically in Springville where, to date this winter season, nearly 100 inches of snow has fallen. It is beyond belief, but I love it

Jean Spitzer said...

The last photo. Beautiful. A bit like Seurat.

Ken Mac said...

Ah I love the mind of winter, and the poem describes it well, but not as romantically as I see it..

Julie Brown said...

I too, like to prepare myself for winter-to take in how the light plays with shadows in this season. Very though-provoking post and blog you have here!

Banjo52 said...


Jean and Rune, thank you! I’ve liked some Seurat—can’t say I know a lot. Pointillism, right?

Rune, can you keep me posted on that “New Scientist” article, or is it for science experts only?

PA, thank you. And thanks for the tip on Peter Doig. When his paintings are selling for 11 or 12 million bucks, I guess I should know him a little. More importantly, I really like what I see on the link you provided.

I read a book by Ivan Doig several years ago and thought the name was odd—had no idea of its ancestry. Now there are two of them! (Unrelated, it seems).

Jeff M, welcome back. Bundle up!

Stickup, Jeff M, and Ken— The aforementioned Ivan Doig often sets his narratives in Montana. You lovers of winter might like him, and yes or no on that, his treatment of the modern American West felt authentic.

Stickup and PA, notice that you’re feeling similar things about SoCal summers . . . . I get it.

Banjo52 said...

Julie, welcome, and thanks. It seems you photographer folks share a perspective, whether in California or Indiana!

Priya said...

The post and the discussions here are very interesting

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