128. Snow Day: Billy Collins

Tomorrow is a snow day here. The snow on the map stretches from Arizona to here in Vermont. Our superintendent called it at three in the afternoon today. After two years without a snow day, here we are. Yeah.

Someone should write a poem about the schools in the south that cancel with an inch of snow. Or schools that close because of other reasons. There is a lot of bad poetry out there about snow days, but Collins gets it right.

If you wish to show your students an example of analysis that goes beyond the obvious, click here. This critique talks a lot about Collins’ use of imagery, and will make students stop and think a moment about how they use words. Ask your students if they think the writer is finding more here than Collins put in.

A good visual accompaniment comes from MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Five for the Holidays: “Snow”, a Poem in Five Pictures offers a whole new lesson in visual details. Check it out.

Finally, if you want to see someone who can read a poem (the North Carolina Poetry Out Loud winner) check out this video. Several others made their own videos.

Of course, you can buy his entire book here.

Sailing Alone Around the Room

Snow Day
Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch,
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed,
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with — some will be delighted to hear —

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School,
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and — clap your hands — the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.


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