In the northern hemisphere, winter is nearly upon us. In fact, many would argue that winter is already here–and they have the snow to prove it! As such, here are my picks for the 10 best winter poems for poets and lovers of poetry.
If I’ve missed your favorite, no problem. Share your favorite winter poem in the comments below.
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#10: “From March 1979,” by Tomas Transtromer
Yes, March has the first day of spring, but alas, March also has the final days of winter. In this poem, Transtromer, a former winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, plays with the tug and pull of the seasons by contrasting it with the tug and pull of the words we say and the language that we can’t.
#9: “In the bleak midwinter,” by Christina Rossetti
While the end of winter offers hope, the middle of winter can seem as endless as winter nights. In this poem by the author of The Goblin Market, Rossetti searches for hope and finds religion. This poem has frequently been set to music.
#8: “The Clocks of the Dead,” by Charles Simic
This beautiful poem about winter captures the changing of time and generations with the assistance of the grandfather clock and snows of winter.
#7: “Horses,” by Pablo Neruda
The landscapes of winter can seem bleak and unforgiving to many people, but Pablo Neruda latches on to an image that blazed through a Berlin winter–an image of horses. As the poem ends, “I have forgotten that dark Berlin winter.//I will not forget the light of the horses.”
#6: “Not Only the Eskimos,” by Lisel Mueller
From a poem based on a Berlin winter to a poet born in Hamburg, Germany, Mueller’s “Not Only the Eskimos” is a wonderful poem about language in general and snow in particular. As the poem begins, “We have only one noun/but as many different kinds:” of snow, and then, Mueller proceeds to label the various kinds of snow.
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#5: “The Darkling Thrush,” by Thomas Hardy
Written on the final day of the 19th century, Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush” is one of the most popular winter poems in the English language.
#4: “It sifts from Leaden Sieves,” by Emily Dickinson
Without once using the word “snow,” Dickinson writes about “it” in beautiful imagery. The snow covers things both large and small: “Then stills its Artisans – like Ghosts -/Denying they have been -.”
#3: “The Snow Man,” by Wallace Stevens
Some lovers of poetry believe “The Snow Man” is not only the best poem of winter, but the best poem ever written. And it is a special poem, for sure, that binds people to the landscape of snow.
#2: “Those Winter Sundays,” by Robert Hayden
In “Those Winter Sundays,” Robert Hayden explores themes of love, father-son relationships, and thankless work that must be done. This poem is a perfect example of the power of what is said and the power of what is not said.
#1: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by Robert Frost
Here it is: The best winter poem ever written, and surprise! It was written on a summer morning. Talk about distancing yourself from your subject. But the magic of this poem is as much about the content as the music ending with, “And miles to go before I sleep,/And miles to go before I sleep.”
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.
He loves all poetry but has a special fondness for seasonal poems–perhaps a side effect of growing up in Ohio with its humid summers, frigid winters, and every kind of weather in between.
Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.