On the post-road between St. Petersburgh and Archangel
And then it was at the horizon—the hooded shape
mushing the sled and chain of dogs.
Through my telescope, cracked from a high fall,
I saw the ice gaw open and take it.
This pole—the seat of frost and desolation,
the lapse in our own sun-dogged reasoning.
The figure, rubbed against the milk sky,
was not the only one scalded by solitude.
From these frozen parishes, the North’s sulfur light
became the equinox’s staddle, that barbed spirit level.
There was pain behind my eyes when I stared too long
against the slouched candle and smalted match.
I still say it was large in form
and the sled dogs led on without whip or voice.
We were in the far north. It never turned to study us.
Questions and Answers
How and where do you find inspiration today?
I discover inspiration primarily from my surroundings. In the past few years, I have been fortunate to live in very diverse locales, such as the southwest, the southeast, and along the coast of Nova Scotia. Relying on encounters with the distinct elements of each region provides me a means to feel grounded and at the same time, encourages me to re-think the area. When the 17-year-old periodic cicadas broke through the ground in Atlanta some years ago, for instance, they sent my mind reeling with poetry as a way to express how I felt about the experience. The weather, the smell of the air after rain, the innumerable transitions of bird life, the traffic and lack of traffic all define the world in which I live in for a time.
For an aspiring writer, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?
Do not be afraid of editing and re-writing. Being comfortable in your own editing process; your own honing and thinning is a very important element of writing. It builds trust in your own voice. I have never written a first draft and thought, good, done. The process of reworking ones work is often when much of the magic happens: the metaphors and imagery shine brighter as the poet sees her own expressions more clearly. This part of writing can often be the most frustrating as well, but it will make you a stronger poet. I would also add that you must read as much poetry as you can. The best poets I know are the most well-read poets. Studying how a poem you enjoy sheds sparks takes time that should be enjoyable as a writer’s craftsmanship and imagination are so integral to the work at hand.
How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?
I have been working for some time on poems about winter and the cold. I have been most interested in literary scenes and paintings that express the starkness during such weather. “Ice” came about from re-reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The poem focuses on the scene when Captain Walton encounters Victor Frankenstein traversing the Arctic in search of his monster. I wanted the poem to convey Frankenstein’s madness in chasing his monster across the north and at the same time the monster’s autonomy. That the two beings roam across such a sparse landscape as creator and creature troubles a perception that is also fractured in light and ice.