Feb. 9, 2003

The Snow Country

by Robert Hedin

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Poem: "The Snow Country," by Robert Hedin.

The Snow Country
        for Carolyn

Up on Verstovia the snow country is silent tonight.
I can see it from our window,
A white sea whose tide flattens over the darkness.
This is where the animals must go-
The old foxes, the bears too slow to catch
The fall run of salmon, even the salmon themselves-
All brought together in the snow country of Verstovia.
This must be where the ravens turn to geese,
The weasels to wolves, where the rabbits turn to owls.
I wonder if birds even nest on that floating sea,
What hunters have forgotten their trails and sunk out of sight.
I wonder if the snow country is green underneath,
If there are forests and paths
And cabins with wood-burning stoves.
Or does it move down silently gyrating forever,
Glistening with the bones of animals and trappers,
Eggs that are cold and turning to stones.
I wonder if I should turn, tap, and even wake you.

It's the birthday of Alice Walker, born in Eatonton, Georgia (1944). Eatonton is also the birthplace of Joel Chandler Harris and Flannery O'Connor lived for many years on a nearby farm. When she took a teaching job at Wellesley College, she suggested teaching a course made up entirely of literature by women; it had never been done before. She searched for African-American women writers whose work she could assign, and single-handedly resurrected the work of Zora Neale Hurston, whose books had long been out of print. In 1983 she received both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Color Purple.

It's the birthday of Robert (Alexander) Hedin, born in Red Wing, Minnesota (1949). He's written and edited fifteen volumes of poetry; he's made translations of the Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen, edited an anthology of writings about Alaska, and another called The Zeppelin Reader, a collection of poems and stories about airships.

It's the birthday of South African novelist J.M. (John Michael) Coetzee, born in Cape Town, South Africa (1940). He won the Booker Prize twice, in 1984, for The Life and Times of Michael K., and in 1999, for Disgrace. A biographer described Coetzee as "a man of almost monkish self-discipline and dedication. He does not drink, smoke or eat meat. He cycles vast distances to keep fit. A colleague who has worked with him for more than a decade claims to have seen him laugh just once."

It's the birthday of Brendan Behan, born in Dublin, Ireland (1923). He wrote Borstal Boy (1958), The Quare Fella (1956), and The Hostage (1958). He described himself as "a drinker with a writing problem." He died at forty-one and his funeral was the biggest in Dublin for decades. "If work is such a good thing," he once said, "why don't the rich grab it all for themselves?"

It's the birthday of George Ade, born in Kentland, Indiana (1866). He attracted wide attention with a collection called Fables in Slang (1899).

It's the birthday of the imagist poet Amy Lowell, born in Brookline, Massachusetts (1874). She came from a rich family and when she wanted to go to Europe to meet Ezra Pound, she took her car and chauffer over on a transatlantic liner.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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