The Snow Village
In the age of pen and paper,
when the page was a snow village,
when days the light was leafing through
descended without message,
the nib that struck from heaven
was the sight of a cottage window
lit by the only certain
sign of a life, a candle,
glimpsed by a stranger walking
at a loss through the snow village.
All that can flow can follow
that sighting, though no image,
no face appear – not even
the hand that draws across it –
though the curtains close the vision,
though the stranger end his visit,
though the snow erase all traces
of his passing through the village,
though his step become unknowable
and the whiteness knowledge.
Glyn Maxwell (1962 – ) used by permission of the author
from The Nerve (Picador, 2002)
S1 … we are talking of times when things could be written down … when communication could take this form – the age of pen and paper … the page likened to a snow village – waiting for some ‘prints’ … just as plants wait for a break through based on light … the poet waits for a breakthrough all he or her has is the white sheet of paper
S2 … it appears communication was initiated from ‘heaven’ – the nib struck from heaven … the mind connected with some spiritual force … to a window in a cottage in the village where life is the simple flame of a candle … indicating somewhat tenuous beginnings … but there is a certainty of this life, this flame, this fire which shows some importance … the window indicating an ‘opening’ … and the poet is able to make a start – there is inspiration and footprints in the snow can be seen as the stranger (poet) starts to make his mark on his journey
S3 / S4 … the stranger (poet) is at a loss lacking understanding on where to go … and only glimpses what has happened in the window, not seeing how the message was born but everything flows from that brief encounter, that sighting of the candle. The inspiration is only momentary and the curtains close on the window and the sighting lost but of importance there is impact on the stranger … akin to making a start by a poet in the creation process … enough for something to follow – All that can flow can follow that sighting – not being privy to the initiator or the process, not seeing the motivator or understanding the fire of inspiration that brought the message-flame to life – but the stranger takes something away with him or her – from this insight there is some direction on where to go and he or she takes up the journey and leaves footprints (writing) in the snow.
S5 … after passing through the village the snow (white pages) cover up again … the poet leaves snow or white pages behind as time erases … but although the snow covers up the snow has that latent knowledge within from the printing that has taken place by the stranger. The snow is more than just snow. Time has a continuous history.
Perhaps we all live in a local snow village of some sort and as we pass through pick up the lost prints of those that have gone before who left some message and created knowledge, in particular thinking of the poet who leaves a poem for posterity.
Glyn Maxwell (born in 1962) is a well regarded British poet, playwright, librettist, and lecturer.
A reading of this poem by Glyn Maxwell can be heard from this link.