The Snow Man: Daily Dose of Poetry and Art

The Snow Man: Daily Dose of Poetry and Art

Bare Trunks with Snow by Georgia O'Keeffe
Bare Trunks with Snow by Georgia O’Keeffe

I’m not actually sure that I like this poem very much, but the first line haunts me at this time of year.

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.

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  • The natural images are great. I love “junipers shagged with ice,” -maybe the sea-birds which need to dry their wings by holding them out half open. They have an awkward elegance and a spiky angular silhouette.
    But I don’t feel nothingness in snow. I prefer Robert Frost’s attitude in Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening “to watch his woods fill up with snow.” I like that sense of fullness and presence that the snow and whiteness and silence conjure. Rather than chillingly empty and signifying nothingness, to Frost the woods “are lovely, dark and deep”.
    Stephen’s poem is very spare and beautiful; maybe he was sad and Frost was happy at the time of writing…

    • That’s exactly it. I love the imagery in this one, but the conclusion leaves me cold. As you say, it’s spare and beautiful but doesn’t resonate emotionally even as it draws me in it shuts me out. And perhaps that’s intentional.

      Given the title, that’s probably the idea, in fact, a portrait of a heart that’s frozen, a snow man, in the sense of a man who is detached from the living, breathing world, who can look on beauty and contemplate nothingness.

      And now I think I understand this poem a lot more.