The Poem in Winter

by Cherise Tasker

When short on time but long on the need for beautiful language, I find a poem may be the perfect choice. Tired of weather and how its whims can change plans, if not lives, we can look to literature for motivation and empathy.

In his 1921 poem “January,” William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) refuses to be distracted by harsh conditions. He is staying on track and meeting challenges. A writer, family practitioner, husband, and father, Williams understood the pull of multiple responsibilities all too well. He wrote in his 1951 autobiography, “I had my typewriter in my office desk…. If a patient came in at the door while I was in the middle of a sentence, bang would go the machine? I was a physician. When the patient left, up would come the machine…. Finally, after eleven at night, when the last patient had been put to bed, I could always find the time to bang out ten or twelve pages.”

January
Again I reply to the triple winds
running chromatic fifths of derision
outside my window:
Play louder.
You will not succeed. I am
bound more to my sentences
the more you batter at me
to follow you.
And the wind,
as before, fingers perfectly
its derisive music.

- William Carlos Williams

Can his words help us focus our attention, make a resolution for 2013, exceed our goals? The poet has been in this place before, facing barriers to his tasks at hand. Likewise, we may find ourselves trying to finish a chore we’ve been putting off, make a healthy eating choice the doctor recommended, or take a walk when it’s 30 degrees outside. Williams pushes back against detractors. Can we?

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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