I love the way snow transforms the world around us in mysterious and beautiful ways. How the mountains disappear into the sky and the fields swell with drifts. How the limbs of the spruces become draped with ermine and the last of the oak leaves — high up in the crown, gloved in white — clap wildly in the wind. Snow lends itself to imagery — from Emily Dickinson’s “leaden sieves” and “alabaster wool” to Robert Frost’s extended metaphor of suicidal thoughts in “Stopping by Woods”—with, no doubt, thousands of other examples in between. One of my favorites comes at the end of this poem by Robert Bly who died in 2021 at the age of 94. When I was studying at Iowa, Bly was one of our gods, along with Theodore Roethke and James Wright — Midwesterners (all men, of course!) who wrote muscular, musical free verse that was unabashedly American and packed a powerful emotional punch.
Snowfall in the Afternoon
by Robert Bly
The grass is half-covered with snow.
It was the sort of snowfall that starts in late afternoon
And now the little houses of the grass are growing dark.
If I reached my hands down near the earth
I could take handfuls of darkness!
A darkness was always there which we never noticed.
As the snow grows heavier the cornstalks fade farther away
And the barn moves nearer to the house.
The barn moves all alone in the growing storm.
The barn is full of corn and moves toward us now
Like a hulk blown toward us in a storm at sea;
All the sailors on deck have been blind for many years.
So lovely and evocative, and I love the Bly poem.
Thank you, Elizabeth! Bly’s Silence in the Snowy Fields was one of those books that helped shape my mind years ago.
The poem is beautiful but I love the picture. It does seem to grow closer, set in white and subtle grays.
I agree. The photograph is beautifully composed and captures the essence of the poem.
Thanks, Patty. Wasn’t it Bly who told Marvin Bell — “What’s wrong with the Iowa Writers Workshop? It’s you, Marvin Bell!” Never a mincer of words.
It’s hard to capture snow falling in a photo — so I was proud of this one!