In response to Richard Gilbert’s suggestion that I tell the story behind the story of my book (which is about, among other things, “becoming a writer”), I’ve been writing a series on poetry’s influence on my development. Poetry was my first love. And although poetry is no longer my one and only literary infatuation, I still believe that immersing oneself in an occasional poem can be useful to anyone who wants to write with greater precision and pizazz.
So I invite you to dive into Wallace Stevens’ wintry-chilly poem, the The Snow Man (yes, it’s rather a startling experience, but the whole point of this adventure is to shock your heart a little):
- Recall a time in your life when you were emotionally frozen, enclosed in “a mind of winter.”
- Remember how it feels to “have been cold a long time.”
- Consider the misery that happens when a person merely exists in his circumstances, standing lifelessly in the blizzardy-pain, like a mindless snowman.
- Envision what could happen if you would employ the powers of imagination and belief–to create hope, to live inspired by dreams, to resist annihilation while you melt, to transform, to become something better, despite everything.
- Read the poem The Snow Man (click here) and then read it again, slowly. Read it aloud.
- Experience the poem, however you experience it. And think about whatever it causes you to think about.
If you crave a heady-intellectual analysis of The Snow Man, check out this interesting blah-blah on the American Poetry website. But feel free to skip this part of the exercise if literary criticism makes you yawn. Scholarly analysis is not necessary for the enjoyment of poetry.
Wallace Stevens is the poet who first made me think about thinking. His poetry invited me to go beyond my purely emotional responses to poems, to delve into an intellectual exploration of what poetry can be and what it can do for the heart, soul and mind. He and his poems made me want to become a more thoughtful writer.
What or who makes you think about thinking?