Thursday, November 03, 2011

"Lines for Winter" by Mark Strand

No snow here yet, this is from a couple of years ago . . .

Mark Strand is one of my favorite poets. In my morning devotional when I read poems at the Poetry Foundation's site, I feel wet ink on my chin from the first lines in his poem "Eating Poetry":

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry. . . .

Strand's poems are often surreal, but always accessible. His craft in simple straightforward lines belies his depth of sight and spirituality. Because of my love of winter here in my white bowl meadow, I'd like to share this from him, as the season of subtle lights commences. Though it grows cold, you will go on . . . .

Lines for Winter
    by Mark Strand

     for Ros Krauss
Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

    ~ from New Selected Poems 


erin said...

ruth, talk about white space. what a beautiful poem. somehow it speaks directly to a place in me that i have been nursing for the last few years, a place that i think is coming of age, a place where i can rid myself of clutter. isn't this funny? or is it miraculous timing, mark writing the poem, you sharing it now, my place coming of age? but i look around this house and ask which things are of value, which things are tied to me? and it is so much less than i once suspected. perhaps there is nothing left of value on its own. perhaps i am already travelling and i have given up everything. perhaps this house is only a shadow of what once was still projected behind me, not real.

what a special poem. there we are exposed within ourselves and we must love what remains.


The Solitary Walker said...

Very good. Llike it a lot. Love 'cracking white' and 'the tune your bones play'.

Nelson said...

When out in the cold, Tell yourself....that you love what you are.

Thank you for this encouragement, Ruthie.

Maureen said...

Strand also is a favorite of mine. This particular poem is replete with sensations and the images of white and cold find such a warm place to settle in that concluding line.

Ruth said...

erin, yes, I can see that white space, which you have nursed in me, too. Maybe every minute a miracle happens in these ordinary/extraordinary connections.

In the space after the heartbreak, something new starts breathing. That's what I feel by the end of this poem.


Ruth said...

Robert, thank you. I'm glad you like those lines, too.

Ruth said...

Nelson, this is a gift to me, too.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Maureen. I tried to find out more about Ros Krauss, and I didn't find much. Of course the poem feels as if she (he?) must have faced something quite grim. Think of Lester Potts, and how his mind found another way to communicate, through his drawings and paintings. The hope is that there is always another way, a way out.

Cait O'Connor said...

LOVE this new to me poem Ruth and the first lines about eating poetry I have read before and love too. Thank you. I am off to read more of your posts as I have been absent from commenting from a while, please forgive me.

GailO said...

Oh this is wonderful Ruth! The line that immediately sang to me is "...for once to lie down under the small fire of winter stars." I do get warmth from this somehow.

I have read Eating Poetry somewhere before but no longer remember where...what an amazing poem!

Marcie said...

I've never heard this poem before. Thank-you!! And - I just love that winter twilight image. Beautiful!

Brendan said...

There aren't many poets as comforting as Mark Strand. He reminds me a lot of William Stafford and Mary Oliver. They are friends, and their poems most often console.That is a real gift to all of us. Thanks for sharing it. - Brendan

hedgewitch said...

This is definitely delicious enough to eat. Winter is an abbreviated time, all the senses narrow down even as nature's own palette does--and this poem suits it like mittens and fluffy angora scarves. Thanks for sharing it with us Ruth.

elizabeth said...

Had not read this poem before -think it's austere simple lines rather echo winter's lack of lushness --the chill to the bone paring away.
Splendid stuff.
Thank you for introducing me to it.

Are you ever in NY?
I just joined Poets House and it is a wonderful place to slow down and sit and reflect.

George said...

Much to think about here. I wonder if there is a difference between telling oneself that you love what you are, versus having true compassion for oneself. I'm personally drawn back to the opening lines: "Tell yourself, as it gets cold and gray falls from the air, that you will go on walking, hearing the same tune no matter where you are . . ."

Stratoz said...

thanks for sharing. I try to love who I am and try to imagine becoming one who is easier to love. peace and hope

Louise Gallagher said...

Floating in a sea of white holding grey gently.

Remember the post you did on music -- asking people to share theirs.

this feels like that for me. I am not familiar with a lot of poets -- and you have introduced me to a gem.

Thank you.

Barb said...

This is one of my favorite Mark Strand poems. Wouldn't it be the ultimate gift if at the very end, you love what you are! I have his poem, Keeping Things Whole on my sidebar - another poem of his that speaks to me. That photo of the meadow makes me imagine a bit more snow and you stepping forth in your new snowshoes.

Ruth said...

Hello, Cait! I'm happy to see you! Thank you for reading here. I'll catch up with you too. I hope all is well.

Ruth said...

Oliag, I love that line too! There is nothing like the warmth I feel lying down in the orchard, on snow, under the moon and stars. I have to write about it!

"Eating Poetry" is another world, ecstatic!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Marcie! I'm glad you enjoyed the poem and the photo. I stopped on my way to work one morning for this moon.

Ruth said...

I agree, Brendan. Strand's poems have hope for me, always, and yes his eye twinkles in the city night, while Mary Oliver's is a ray of light by the pond. I am not as familiar with Stafford, but what poems I know have their straight and steady gaze.

Ruth said...

Thanks for reading, Hedge! Maybe that's what I like about winter, the narrowing down.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Elizabeth! I'm happy you like this poem.

I will only rarely if ever get to NY again, now that Lesley no longer lives there. :( I would love to visit Poets House! The Poetry Foundation has opened one in Chicago, so maybe I can make it there in the year ahead. Isn't it great to see money thrown at poetry?

Ruth said...

George, coffee? This is when you and I need to sit down together! I think there is a difference between telling oneself that you love what you are, versus having true compassion for oneself. But I wonder if by noting the possible difference yourself, you and I might have slightly different opinions about it. Maybe I'll email you. ;-)

Either way, you and I love those opening lines.

Ruth said...

Stratoz, thank you. Maybe you are getting at what George was getting at (though I am not sure): We can love what we are, but that does not mean we might not want to change what we are. I think that the first leads to the second, even though the first could imply that what I am doesn't need to change!

Ruth said...

Louise, have you ever compiled a personal anthology of poems? I would like to do that, but never have. We have an Espresso Book Machine at our university library, and I am thinking about getting one made up. It would be a fun gift for someone too. I'm glad you enjoyed Mark Strand's poem too.

Ruth said...

Barb, I'm glad you love this and knew it already! And I had "Keeping Things Whole" on my sidebar a long time myself. Isn't it wonderful?

Oh wouldn't this time of morning be fantastic for a snowshoe outing . . .

Friko said...

Death in the snow, the thought alone makes me shiver.

A cold and unforgiving picture, in spite of the welcome winter is given here. The words are beautiful but they cannot convince me to seek out the cold my own valley of snow has in readiness for me.

Stratoz said...

expanding my thought... part of my spiritual practice is to examen my day. see the blessings. watch for what caused emotions to be stirred, look at what approaches the next day, and... see what needs to be changed. What did I do that I hoped I did not do? How did I not love others? How did I not love myself? Done gently, with compassion, this prayer can lead to becoming a renewed person

Pauline said...

Thank you for the introduction to Mark Strand - now I'm eating poetry!

Ginnie said...

That's WONderful, Ruth. Thanks for sharing it. Astrid and I were just talking this weekend about loving we? YES!

Anonymous said...

I am not a poet, but "eating poetry" has made me hungry!

Shaista said...

I remember leaving a comment a week or two ago, about How To Cope With Winter, and I remember writing that I would find my answer right here, at your feet.
And I just did.