Northern Virginia, where I live, recently experienced its first significant winter storm in several
years. Snowfall totals ranged from four to eight inches and it lingered for a few days while temperatures remained low. Eventually, though, sunshine and warmer temperatures did
their work and the white carpet slowly withdrew.
I don't like cold weather and I like to take my snow in small doses. I do, however, enjoy watching it melt and the aftermath of this
particular event brought a phenomenon I do like very much. Underneath the snow cover, the grass had turned green again, due to the blanketing effect of the snow holding warmth
below, plus the extra moisture percolating into the soil. It put me in mind of T.S. Eliot's lines from Four Quartets:
"Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic."
("Little Gidding," lines 1-3)
Another, smaller, winter storm is expected this weekend and I'll keep those lines in mind.
One of the most vexed topics in the contemporary art and literary world is that of cultural appropriation. What is it, when is it acceptable
and when is it an affront to marginalized cultures? Who if anyone is allowed to do it? Poet, critic, and teacher Paisley Rekdal wades into this controversy with her new book, Appropriate. Appropriately subtitled A Provocation, Rekdal provides few answers but asks the right questions. Ranging from White teens on Instagram posing in costumes characteristic of non-White cultures, to the fabrication of an ethnic or racial identity not one's own, to using dialects from cultural groups to which the writer doesn't belong, Rekdal judiciously weighs every instance without resorting to preconceived or received ideas or knee-jerk reactions.
Rekdal herself is bi-racial (Asian and Caucasian) and thus well positioned to consider this subject. I hope to write further about this book
Frank Bidart is one of America's greatest living poets. At age of 78, his poems are as fresh and powerful and provocative as ever. In his most
recent collection, Against Silence, which I read over the holidays, he continues to explore his themes—one might call them obsessions—of the necessary coexistence of love and hate, the inescapability of early family dysfunction, the constant inquiry into the recurrence of these throughout history. Despite his many books and the fact that he has won all the prizes, I still don't think he is as well-known as he should be.
Look for a full treatment of Bidart here soon.
Mind of Winter
Regard the purity
of fresh snowfall
under the icy moon
before sunlight washes
over and it crusts
and darkens to the color
of ash or soot.
The cold dry wind
sweeps over it
forget forget forget
to hold nothing
in the mind
(Originally published in Wild Word, Winter 2021.)
Enjoy the winter and remember that spring is coming.