Darkness, Snow And Ice: The Literature Inspired By Winter

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We talked earlier this week about how the early settlers survived the dark days of winter. And one of the ways they got through — with their sanity intact — was to hunker down and tell stories.

So, if you're thinking of hunkering down this weekend, maybe to binge on "House Of Cards," also think about binging on some great winter reads.


Elisa New, professor of American literature at Harvard University's English department. She's author of "The Line’s Eye: Poetic Experience, American Sight." She tweets @AmericanPoetryX.

James Scott, Massachusetts-based writer and author. His novel is "The Kept."

Radio Boston's Winter Literature Picks

"Walden," Henry David Thoreau

  • "He was at first bare and out of doors; but though this was pleasant enough in serene and warm weather, by daylight, the rainy season and the winter, to say nothing of the torrid sun, would perhaps have nipped his race in the bud if he had not made haste to clothe himself with the shelter of a house. Adam and Eve, according to the fable, wore the bower before other clothes. Man wanted a home, a place of warmth, or comfort, first of warmth, then the warmth of the affections."

"To Build a Fire," Jack London

  • "Day had dawned cold and gray when the man turned aside from the main Yukon trail. He climbed the high earth-bank where a little-traveled trail led east through the pine forest. It was a high bank, and he paused to breathe at the top. He excused the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o’clock in the morning. There was no sun or promise of sun, although there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day. However, there seemed to be an indescribable darkness over the face of things. That was because the sun was absent from the sky. This fact did not worry the man. He was not alarmed by the lack of sun. It had been days since he had seen the sun."

"It Sifts from Leaden Sieves," Emily Dickinson

  • "It sifts from Leaden Sieves --It powders all the Wood.It fills with Alabaster WoolThe Wrinkles of the Road --"

"Those Wintery Sundays," Robert Hayden

  • "Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him."

"The Snow Man," Wallace Stevens

  • "One must have a mind of winterTo regard the frost and the boughsOf the pine-trees crusted with snow;

"Walking Out," David Quammen

  • "Under the cedars, the creek bottom held 3 cool dampness at seemed to be stored from one winter 10 the next. The boy began at once to feel chilled. He put on his jacket, and they continued climbing. Soon he was sweating again in the cold."

"The Kept," James Scott

  • "Into an old rucksack that must have belonged to his father, Caleb placed what dried meats they'd stored in the barn for the winter. He rolled a thick wool blanket around clean shirts, extra rags for bandages, empty jars for water, a length of twine to hang their shelter some matches, and — buried for Amos and the two of them disappeared down the hill."

"The Wish," Eileen McCluskey

I fall on you
I fall until all
landmarks fade:
street corners
that you turn
during evening
baseball fields
where you open
folding chairs in spring
and cheer the children,
tree roots where your dogs
lift their legs in salute
to one another.

I blow tiny kisses
in your eyes
to gain your attention
as you heave me
on top of myself.

I become rapacious
in my desire for you,
mount your yards and climb
the sides of your houses,
cling to your rooftops,
wilt into long, shining jewels
that sparkle into your homes.

I fall to be with you
I fall to fill your lonely
crevices, to swell
in voluptuous curves
that I hope you cannot help
but fall for.

This segment aired on February 27, 2015.


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