Poetry Review: “Prayer at Winter Solstice” by Dana Gioia

"Winter Sun Worshiper" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Winter Sun Worshiper” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

Thanksgiving began in the North Country as an unseasonably  warm and sunny day, but ended wet and windy and cold. This morning the grass is coated with a light dusting of snow and the wind continues to blow out of the north. Winter is re-establishing its reign over late November.

Driving north yesterday we listened to a wonderful show on Minnesota Public Radio called, ” Giving Thanks: A Celebration of Fall, Food and Gratitude.” According to the website of American Public Media there is a two-hour and a one-hour version. We listened to the one-hour version. I post a link to both here: Giving Thanks – A Celebration of Fall, Food and Gratitude.

The three “stories” from Charles Laughton were wonderful, especially the story of  his relationship to Chartres Cathedral. But what really caught my ear was the brief interview with Dana Gioia, one of my favorite contemporary poets. As part of the show he read this poem.

Enjoy!

 

Prayer at Winter Solstice

Blessed is the road that keeps us homeless.
Blessed is the mountain that blocks our way.
Blessed are hunger and thirst, loneliness and all forms of desire.
Blessed is the labor that exhausts us without end.
Blessed are the night and the darkness that blinds us.
Blessed is the cold that teaches us to feel.
Blessed are the cat, the child, the cricket, and the crow.
Blessed is the hawk devouring the hare.
Blessed are the saint and the sinner who redeem each other. 
Blessed are the dead, calm in their perfection.
Blessed is the pain that humbles us.
Blessed is the distance that bars our joy.
Blessed is this shortest day that makes us long for light.
Blessed is the love that in losing we discover.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

 

Blessed is the cold that teaches us to feel.
Blessed are the cat, the child, the cricket, and the crow.
Blessed is the hawk devouring the hare.

 

There is so much to like in this poem that I could have just as easily chosen any lines at random. No doubt the alliterative c-sound of these lines caught my ear. And the wonderful bird references caught my imagination… echoing to my mind Ted Hughes and W.B. Yeats, I suppose.

The occasion of this poem, according to Gioia, is reflecting on the death of his infant son. As he says in his interview, somewhat apologetically, his suffering created in him a very “Catholic or Buddhist” kind of way of thinking about things.

As a whole poem, this is certainly one that is memory-worthy… one to memorize and carry with you through the dark days life, through a North Country winter.

 

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