Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mind of Winter

I became preoccupied with this poem a couple of years ago. To me, it's a poem about empathy and understanding. You can't know the freezing woods if you haven't been "cold a long time." At the time, I was spending a lot of time trying to convince two clients who had lived through awful misery, one of whom suffered from serious mental illness, that they should take sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole in order to avoid the death penalty. In those dealings, then as now, I try to have a "mind of winter."

The Snow Man

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.

--Wallace Stevens


  1. Damn, I'm not sure how I've not found your blog before. (I've seen your book but have not read it yet).

    Anyone who quotes this 1) needs to be on my blogroll at and 2) should consider joining up in with this merry band: who are the people behind the annual Rising Tide conference on the future and recovery of New Orleans.

  2. Mark, I am glad you found the blog and thanks for adding it to your roll.