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Friday, January 13, 2012

Poetry Pairing | ‘January’


The poet, translator, and environmental activist W. S. Merwin has become one of the most honored and widely read poets in America and was appointed United States poet laureate in 2010. Today, he lives, writes and gardens in Hawaii, on Maui. His poem “January” evokes a cold wintry night.
— Poetry Foundation
By W. S. Merwin
So after weeks of rain
at night the winter stars
that much farther in heaven
without our having seen them
in far light are still forming
the heavy elements
that when the stars are gone
fly up as dust finer
by many times than a hair
and recognize each other
in the dark traveling
at great speed and becoming
our bodies in our time
looking up after rain
in the cold night together

Times Selection Excerpt

In “Snow Forecast? Set Up the Patio,” Hilary Stout writes:
In the cycle of the seasons, now is a time of longing — for backyard sunbathing, for cocktails on the patio, for puttering in the garden, and for the distant time when all those activities will be possible again.
And for those who live in climates where all that is still possible, it is high gloating season, a time to feel superior to those of us who have been slogging through slush, picking our way across the ice, heaving snow with our shovels, condemned to wait out the frigid months inside our four walls.
Then there is another type of person, a rarer breed.
Even in this winter of record-challenging cold, there are those who refuse to cower before the elements and retreat indoors. They never shroud the grill or store the patio furniture. They are exhilarated to relax on the deck in the chill. And they find a special beauty as they gaze at the slate-gray sky on a winter morning.
… [Scott] Walsh, an architect and marketer for a real estate firm, has made his outdoor space a homage to winter. He begins most of his days in it, drinking hot cocoa, eating oatmeal and checking e-mail in one of two teak rocking chairs beneath a propane gas lamp. A flame in a glass fireplace fueled by ethanol dances delicately above a stainless steel surface. The flame is particularly beautiful on a winter night, he said, when the snow is falling.
On a bright, 25-degree morning last Saturday, Mr. Walsh busied himself outside, arranging hedge branches painted a winter white in a new planter. Then, on his natural gas Weber grill, he cooked some chicken kebabs for lunch.

Learn more about our collaboration with the Poetry Foundation and find ideas for using any week’s pairing for teaching and learning.

W. S. Merwin’s “January” is from Poetry (January 2001).

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