“It sifts from Leaden Sieves,” does the snow in Emily Dickinson’s mind’s eye. And what a strange and beautiful eye indeed. Elsewhere, regarding snowflakes, “I counted till they danced so/Their slippers leaped the town –/and then I took a pencil/To note the rebels down…”
Oh, how thankful we should be that the greatest American poet — in my view — noted so many things with her magic pencil.
These lines are taken from two of the most noteworthy poems in, A Mind of Winter: Poems for a Snowy Season. Released in paperback late in 2011, the collection ranges from the earliest American poetry (Anne Bradstreet) to the modern era (Anne Sexton), with notable stops along the way. Perhaps even more notable than these stops, however, is a certain missed stop (“My little horse…gives his harness bells a shake/To ask if there is some mistake.”). Whose words these are I think you know.
But there are plenty of stops worth making along the way. Three, in fact, for Robert Frost. And two, for my favorite living American poet, Mary Oliver, high priestess of the modern pastoral.
The title takes its name from Wallace Stevens’ Snow Man, the first poem in the collection. But be warned, if you’re after corncob pipes and button noses you’ll have to look elsewhere. Insurance executive by day, Stevens was, by night (see The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm for the perfect mind of summer), a poet of the highest order (which in this case is more than a mere idea).
In addition to the poems, selected by Robert Atwan and introduced by Donald Hall, A Mind of Winter features illustrations by renowned engraver, Thomas Nason.
Visually, this book will enhance your coffee table. Though you might want to keep it on your bedside stand, as the contents will enhance your mind.
Until you get a chance to come into the store to see and read this book, I will leave you with my own seasonal poem, a short piece that I just wrote.
Today the winds
herald a new year.
They sound a land-
hill of dead