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Winter Images

Tinker

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snow.jpgThis last Tuesday I woke to snow covering my yard.  For some of you, it is a pretty normal winter occurrence. But for me living in the coastal mountains of Northern California, it is rare.   We do get an occasional winter snow flurry but it rarely sticks to the ground. Therefore,  I was pretty excited finding a white blanket over everything and I wanted to capture it. I grabbed my phone, stepped through my front door and took a few photos.  But when I looked at them, I saw none of the uniqueness I knew was before me. I am not a photographer, my camera is my phone.  Looking down I noticed snow on the Rosemary bush next to me.  It glistened and the colors were so vivid, I was compelled to stoop down and take a couple of close up photos.  It is just an ordinary plant from which I pluck a tender sprig whenever I need Rosemary for cooking. I've never really looked at it closely before.  With the clusters of sparkling snow resting on the wet, green needles and surrounding sapphire blue blooms, the ordinary became extraordinary.  

This is what poets do, find the extraordinary in the ordinary. We work to sharpen and expand our skills of observation.   Instead of the blurred landscape, we stoop down and look closely at the shape and color of the Rosemary sprig.   And at the same time we tap into our past experiences, things we've seen, read, heard, felt and blend it with the details of our awareness, creating unique images.

Depending on where one resides, winter can be as diverse as knee deep snow banks, slashing relentless rain or a sandy sunny beach.  Winter provides its own special images, we as writers have the opportunity to grasp and convert our surroundings into words so that others may see our world. Here are a few winter poems that are as diverse as the poets who wrote them.

Winter Trees by W.C. Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds                                            
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

 

 

Winter Song by  Wilfed Owens

The browns, the olives, and the yellows died,
And were swept up to heaven; where they glowed
Each dawn and set of sun till Christmastide,
And when the land lay pale for them, pale-snowed,
Fell back, and down the snow-drifts flamed and flowed.

From off your face, into the winds of winter,
The sun-brown and the summer-gold are blowing;
But they shall gleam with spiritual glinter,
When paler beauty on your brows falls snowing,
And through those snows my looks shall be soft-going.

 

Winter  by Robert Southey

A wrinkled crabbed man they picture thee,
Old Winter, with a rugged beard as grey
As the long moss upon the apple-tree;
Blue-lipt, an icedrop at thy sharp blue nose,
Close muffled up, and on thy dreary way
Plodding alone through sleet and drifting snows.
They should have drawn thee by the high-heapt hearth,                               
Old Winter! seated in thy great armed chair,
Watching the children at their Christmas mirth;
Or circled by them as thy lips declare
Some merry jest, or tale of murder dire,
Or troubled spirit that disturbs the night,
Pausing at times to rouse the mouldering fire,
Or taste the old October brown and bright.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

California Winter - by Karl Shapiro

It is winter in California, and outside
Is like the interior of a florist shop:
A chilled and moisture-laden crop
Of pink camellias lines the path; and what
Rare roses for a banquet or a bride,
So multitudinous that they seem a glut!

A line of snails crosses the golf-green lawn
From the rosebushes to the ivy bed;
An arsenic compound is distributed
For them. The gardener will rake up the shells 
And leave in a corner of the patio
The little mound of empty shells, like skulls.

By noon the fog is burnt off by the sun
And the world's immensest sky opens a page
For the exercise of a future age;
Now jet planes draw straight lines, parabolas,
And x's, which the wind, before they're done,
Erases leisurely or pulls to fuzz.

It is winter in the valley of the vine.
The vineyards crucified on stakes suggest
War cemeteries, but the fruit is pressed,
The redwood vats are brimming in the shed,
And on the sidings stand tank cars of wine,
For which bright juice a billion grapes have bled.                  

And skiers from the snow line driving home
Descend through almond orchards, olive farms.
Fig tree and palm tree - everything that warms
The imagination of the wintertime.
If the walls were older one would think of Rome:
If the land were stonier one would think of Spain.

But this land grows the oldest living things,
Trees that were young when Pharoahs ruled the world,
Trees whose new leaves are only just unfurled.
Beautiful they are not; they oppress the heart
With gigantism and with immortal wings;
And yet one feels the sumptuousness of this dirt.

It is raining in California, a straight rain
Cleaning the heavy oranges on the bough,
Filling the gardens till the gardens flow,
Shining the olives, tiling the gleaming tile,
Waxing the dark camellia leaves more green,
Flooding the daylong valleys like the Nile.

Scotland's Winter by Edward Muir

Now the ice lays its smooth claws on the sill,
The sun looks from the hill
Helmed in his winter casket,
And sweeps his arctic sword across the sky.
The water at the mill
Sounds more hoarse and dull.
The miller's daughter walking by
With frozen fingers soldered to her basket
Seems to be knocking
Upon a hundred leagues of floor
With her light heels, and mocking
Percy and Douglas dead,
And Bruce on his burial bed,
Where he lies white as may
With wars and leprosy,
And all the kings before
This land was kingless,
And all the singers before
This land was songless,
This land that with its dead and living waits the Judgement Day.
But they, the powerless dead,
Listening can hear no more
Than a hard tapping on the floor
A little overhead
Of common heels that do not know
Whence they come or where they go
And are content
With their poor frozen life and shallow banishment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More winter poems found right here at Poetry Magnum Opus.  
Yarnspinner's Winter on the Hill and  Snow Storm  and eclipse's mountain leopard
Douglas's Cold Love , Tony's January and Winnipeg and Badger's Red Sled
My own Crystal Clear,  and for fun Rosemary on a Rare Winter Morning,  haiku # 7, haiku #8Six More Weeks and Super Blood Wolf Moon
Do you have a favorite winter poem you'd like to share here?  Or better yet, one of your own perhaps?   We can travel the world reading winter images together.

~~Tink aka  Judi Van Gorder

 



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Winter images are by far my favorite. I think one of the best examples is the first stanza from Keats' "The Eve of St. Agnes":

 
I.

  ST. AGNES’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
  The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
  The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
  And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
  Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told  
  His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
  Like pious incense from a censer old,
  Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

 

 

I am happy reading just this stanza, alone, as a lyrical poem of its own!

I use winter images often in my own poems. Two that come to mind in the moment are my poems "January" and "Winnipeg." :wink:❄️

Thanks for another terrific blog entry!

Tony

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I remember your "January" and the painting that inspired it, only it is a different "January" and different painting both by the same artist..   You have two January poems.  I used one as an example of an eckphrastic poem.   As soon as I saw your response to the blog entry, the image flashed in my mind, the house in the snow.    I guess I missed "Winnipeg" the first time around, I'm so glad you mention it here.  My favorite of the 3 poems is the January I used for an example of an eckphrastic poem.  Your short poems capture so much in so few words.  

I love the Eve of St Agnes by Keats,  I don't think there is anything Keats has written I don't like. Thank you for sharing it here. Your link only takes us to Wikipedia and not the poem. My link goes to the full poem.  

By the way, I had a little time this afternoon so started working on the blog entry and meant to hide it until it was completed.  But I was in a rush and didn't get it hidden.  I went to dinner with friends and came back to finish it up just a little while ago.  You responded before I finished my edit.  I was actually going to hide it until tomorrow, Thursday Blog day. Oh well, it is already Thursday in some parts of the world.

~~Judi

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