I was casting about for something to post here to mark the so-far quiet beginning of 2022, and at poetryfoundation.org I found this brilliant essay by northwest poet Linda Bierds about a poem by Margaret Avison. As a bonus, I learned about this book — Dark Horses: Poets on Overlooked Poems — published a while back, in 2006. I found a copy at Abe Books and ordered it.
Margaret Avison (1918-2007) is gone, but the poetry lingers on, and we can know her through it. That might give heart to all of us, laboring here in the dark.
“New Year’s Poem” by Margaret Avison. Reprinted from Always Now: The Collected Poems (in three volumes) by Margaret Avison, by permission of the Porcupine’s Quill. © The Estate of Margaret Avison, 2003.
Source: Always Now: The Collected Poems (The Porcupine’s Quill, 2003)
New Year’s Poem
The Christmas twigs crispen and needles rattleAlong the window-ledge.A solitary pearlShed from the necklace spilled at last week’s partyLies in the suety, snow-luminous plainnessOf morning, on the window-ledge beside them.And all the furniture that circled statelyAnd hospitable when these rooms were brimmedWith perfumes, furs, and black-and-silverCrisscross of seasonal conversation, lapsesInto its previous largeness.I rememberAnne’s rose-sweet gravity, and the stiff graveWhere cold so little can contain;I mark the queer delightful skull and crossbonesStarlings and sparrows left, taking the crust,And the long loop of winter windSmoothing its arc from dark Arcturus downTo the bricked corner of the drifted courtyard,And the still window-ledge.Gentle and just pleasureIt is, being human, to have won from spaceThis unchill, habitable interiorWhich mirrors quietly the lightOf the snow, and the new year.