Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry by People Who Aren't Dead Yet: "Snow"


Walking through a field with my little brother Seth

I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.
For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels
had been shot and dissolved when they hit the ground.

He asked who had shot them and I said a farmer.

Then we were on the roof of the lake.
The ice looked like a photograph of water.

Why he asked. Why did he shoot them.

I didn't know where I was going with this.

They were on his property, I said.

When it's snowing, the outdoors seem like a room.

Today I traded hellos with my neighbor.
Our voices hung close in the new acoustics.
A room with the walls blasted to shreds and falling.

We returned to our shoveling, working side by side in silence.

But why were they on his property, he asked.

David Berman

I love this poem for its sensory details that make me I feel like, reading it, I'm outside in the snow; I love the way it tells a story; and I really love the end, which is, in my mind, what makes it a poem because the question the little brother asks so beautifully reflects the willingness with which young people believe and suggests the tangle of complication that can ensue when we don't take them seriously. Poetry's favorite kind of question is one that can't really be answered, and the little brother's question resonates at the end of the poem, suggesting a million other unanswerable questions in the reader's mind.

David Berman is a living American poet, cartoonist, and singer-songwriter best known for his work with indie-rock band the Silver Jews.


1) Think of an experience that hinged on some sort of weather condition: snow, rain, hail, humidity, heat, cold, a sunny or cloudy day. First, freewrite maybe ten minutes about the experience.
2) Freewrite about the weather itself, making simple observations and comparisons, using sensory details of all kinds to capture how being in the weather feels.
3) "Carve a poem" from the freewrite of your experience. Use a highlighter to isolate the most effective lines, then write them down. Note that "Snow" uses dialogue. You can use it, too! Play with what you've got, considering sequence, line breaks, rhythm, etc. Highlight details and language in your weather freewrite to add imagery to the poem.
4) End with a question that somehow reflects the nature of the experience.
5) Revise. Add/subtract/tinker. Do it again. And again. Until it's right.

This exercise was adapted from one created by Matt Buchanan.

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