Dust of Snow

I had the good fortune a few years back of hearing the former U. S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan argue for the importance of clarity in poetry, a concept that would seem to go against the grain of contemporary poetics. That’s just one of the many reasons I admire Ryan, whose short, dense, powerful poems often remind me of Emily Dickinson’s. Reading a Ryan poem is like unpacking a Christmas stocking; each is loaded with treats and the joy of discovery.

Ryan’s not afraid to say what she thinks. Like her poems, though, her ideas are often more nuanced and complicated than a first reading suggests. She cited Robert Frost’s “Dust of Snow” as a poem that is utterly clear on the surface, while at the same time containing a mystery.  Poetry, she said, should “destabilize and then reorganize us.” Here, at the end of our “surreal” year, are two gifts filled with clarity and mystery (both involving birds) that I hope will do just that.  Happy holidays!


Dust of Snow
By Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.


Home to Roost
By Kay Ryan

The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the
day. The sun is
bright, but the
chickens are in
the way. Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens,
dense with them.
They turn and
then they turn
again. These
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small—
various breeds.
Now they have
come home
to roost—all
the same kind
at the same speed.

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16 Responses to Dust of Snow

  1. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for these at the end of a very difficult year for many . I wish you good health and peace in the New Year.
    I love your writing.
    Cheryl Sullivan

  2. Iris Maitland says:

    Thanks for an auspicious ending. We need the good cheer. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a New Year of peace, good health and fun. Miris

  3. Francine Eget says:

    I am grateful for this post, both for Frost’s poem that I had not been aware of and for this new poet,new to me at least, whose insights on poetry in general and whose poem is fresh, well wrought, and delightful. Thank you!

  4. Claudia Shuster says:

    Dear Liza,

    More of a visual learner, I do struggle to get the nuances of the poetry you have shared and respond with immediacy to the photos. I am trying to bring peace to a climate of fear in my heart (politically speaking). Your messages are consoling!
    Good wishes for the season and wishes to all for peace overcoming political insanity!

    • Liza says:

      Thank you, Claudia. How to nice to hear from you. I keep wondering if we’re going to have a poet at the Inauguration. Who would it be? Wishing you all good things in the year ahead despite the insanity.

  5. Beata M. Newman Scarpulla says:

    Dear Liza,

    These poems are lovely and comforting.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Have a festive Christmas.


  6. Lorraine Tinger says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have loved Dust of Snow and had no idea of its origin. It brings tears to my eyes, but in a good way. I will re- memorize this poem and repeat it to myself in the coming weeks. Wishing wonderful things for you and your family. Merry Christmas and Happy. Holidays.

    • Liza says:

      So nice to hear from you, Lorraine! “Dust of Snow” is a wonderful poem to have by heart. Wishing you all the best for the holidays — and the year ahead.

  7. annette shear says:

    A warming thought from a writer named Frost..
    It is just what times need.

    Thank you and have a happy and healthy new year.


  8. Jackie Wein says:

    Beautiful images to melt snow, and hearts.
    Hope the New Year brings peace and happiness to all of us, and to the world.

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