To escape 2020, read these poems. By the fireplace… or electric heater
'You can look for as many things in poems as you can look for from life,' says poet Stephanie Burt
*This episode originally aired on December 17, 2020.
Escaping through movies and video games has certainly helped many Canadians cope with the pandemic.
As have packages delivered from the outside world to your door. There are days when those things 'hit the spot'. Then there are days when they don't.
The truth is a person cannot escape through consumption alone.
Finding himself struck with a vague but profound yearning, a hole in his Christmas spirit, IDEAS producer Tom Howell turned to the work of poets both ancient and modern to find consolation, inspiration, and wonderment to get through this winter.
Snow in the Suburbs
Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward, when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall,
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall.
A sparrow enters the tree,
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eyes,
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.
The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in.
IDEAS listeners recommended their favourite Canadian winter poems on the program's social feeds.
As Stephanie Burt argues, poetry should not be approached as a single, unified subject like geometry, as "something you learn" — a misconception that many people carry with them from their high school days.
"You can't really be the 'wrong kind of poetry reader,'" Burt told IDEAS.
"What you can be is either delighted and surprised and expanded or empowered by finding the kind of poem that's right for you, or frustrated by finding the wrong one."
Guests in this episode:
Twm Morys is a poet and musician. He's also the editor of Barddas, the Welsh-language poetry journal.
Sonnet L'Abbé is a professor of Creative Writing at Vancouver Island University on the traditional and unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw People. Her latest book is Sonnet's Shakespeare. An earlier work also mentioned on this episode is Killarnoe.
This episode was produced by Tom Howell.