When I was in community college, I was part of the school’s “literary society.” I’m not quite sure how it happened, but one of my sisters and I, once learning that this small organization existed but was languishing under the slipshod leadership of someone or other (I honestly can’t remember who it was but I think he had sort of a “bro vibe”) well, we somehow ousted all of the members and resurrected the club as something entirely new? I can’t even imagine how that must have come about–and I am fairly certain I couldn’t figure it out even while it was happening!– but when my sister wants to get something done, she gets it done!
So we invited a few friends to join, and began writing and meeting regularly. We scored an excellent advisor, one of the school’s librarians that I admired tremendously, and I am still sort-of friends with, to this day, several decades later. Well, Facebook friends. But still! I’m barely friends with anyone from that time, so that’s quite a feat.
We began taking submissions and planning a literary magazine. We published two or three of them! I had pieces published in them (if we are friends on Instagram, you may have gotten a peep at them in my stories this week!) But I was also the secretary of the club, so we kind of had to include me, ha. We hosted events and invited authors to speak, we held little soirees on campus for writers and poets, we attended local poetry readings and volunteered our time for various causes. I can barely believe I did any of those things. Who was that person? I think those endeavors were made possible because I was part of something. I know I certainly would have been too fearful to attempt a single one of those things on my own. And though it eventually fell apart, it remains an utterly magical time in my life. Despite the fact that it was only community college, and I was poor and broke and in every other respect, I had no idea what to do with myself or my future. I knew for a time, as long as I was writing, I was dreaming things. And that felt like hope.
Right before our holiday break one year, we threw a potluck Yule-gathering and read poetry to children. I shared a few passages from the book A Circle of Seasons by Myra Cohn Livingston, which included wonderful artwork from painter Leonard Everett Fisher. I read aloud the winter portion of the book, which I thought so beautifully evocative, the imagery of which I hoped might catch the fancy of at least one or two small audience members.
Winter etches windowpanes, finger paints in white
sculptures strange soft shapes in snow that glister in the night.
Filigrees the snowflake, spins icicles of glass,
Paints the ground in hoarfrost, its needles sharp with light.
Winter blows a blizzard, rages with a gale,
Spews ice crystals through the clouds, pellets earth with hail.
Breathes a freezing snowstorm, buries hedge and path,
Quiets down in chalky drifts, on mornings bleak and pale.
These many years later (ooof! Too many years to feel comfortable thinking about for too long) I still write poetry. I was never formally educated or trained in writing and I haven’t spent much time honing my craft in that regard… and so I can’t say my efforts have vastly improved. But whatever. I enjoy writing poems anyway! And of course, I also spend a great deal of time reading poetry.
On a particularly chilly day last week, I was reminded for the first time in ages of Myra Cohn Livingston’s wintry word-spells, but could only remember a few words of these poems. I definitely could not recall the name of the book or the author! And no matter how I strung those words together or rearranged them, I could find no instance of the poems on the internet. I kept at it though and eventually was led to and rediscovered the book at archive.org, where you can check it out for an hour and read it in its entirety.
This post is dedicated to Katie, who loves winter so very much, and whose fantastical blog of marvels inspired me to challenge myself to write these daily posts for an entire month.