Friday, November 04, 2005

Stopping By Woods

The man in the buggy sat at the edge of the woods. It had just begun snowing. The reins lay draped across the horse's back.

These were Peterson's woods. Everyone knew Peterson lived in the village. No one knew why he kept these woods. He rarely came to inspect them, or get firewood.

The man watched the snow fall. It was a good snow, wet and full. Some snow fell in the horse's mane, and it shook its head.

The sky was snow-heavy and dark. It had been dark all day. The snow reflected light up into the trees.

There was a light breeze. The woods were quiet. On the other side of the woods, the lake was frozen.

The man was studying the woods. He listened to the snow crackle through the tree branches as it fell to the ground. He listened to his measured breath, slowly going in and out.

He was not thinking of her. He was watching the snow.

The horse shook its mane again. "All right, Nick," said the man, "We'll get going. It's a long way home, and we've got to get a good sleep tonight."
Several months ago, Jonathon Mayhew, who writes Bemsha Swing, made an off-hand comment about how hard it would be to translate a poem into a work of prose.

A few weeks after that, my friend George Wallace sent me a poem which featured Hemingway. I wrote a response, in the voice of D.H. Lawrence.

Somehow, these two ideas collided in my mental labyrinth, and I was inspired to re-write a poem in the voice of Hemingway.

Incidentally, Hemingway did try his hand at poetry. City Light Books published a selection as a chapbook. I remember flipping through it sometime in 1978. I was unimpressed.

On impulse, I chose a fairly well-known poem, Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. I've been reading The Nick Adams Stories this past week, and now realize how accurate that impulse was.

I don't know whether I successfully captured Hemingway's voice. It's not too hard to write bad parodies of the Hemingway style. But I wanted to honor his style at the same time I honored the tone of Frost's poem.

What do you think?

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