Poetry Pharmacy: Poems for cabin fever

Mar 06, 2019
Artwork by: Carly Roberts

Dear Poetry Pharmacy,

Forget April — March is a pretty cruel month here in Maine. How about a poem to help deal with a bad case of cabin fever?

As Robert Frost definitely didn’t say about this time of year in New England, there are miles to go before we sunbathe. The Poetry Pharmacist is struggling herself, and offers two possible prescriptions: Either you can embrace the hardship and seek some commiseration, or you can try to remember that such a thing as spring — and hope — actually exist.

For the first strategy, I recommend Catie Rosemurgy’s macabre “Winter in Gold River,” in which the “scavenger” speaker knows full well how the weather can “knock us down.” Or look at Emily Wilson’s “Winter Journal: Disseminate Bird Over Water.” Wilson has Maine roots, and those roots show in this poem of “folded bones”: She observes how snowfall “deliver(s) something seeming to uplift” but also “to begin / pressing downward.”

But let’s not wallow. Joy Harjo offers some tough love in “A Map to the New World.” This poem understands the “rage” and “ashes” of the winter doldrums, and reports that although there is “no exit” from this existence, we “must make (our) own maps.”

Slightly more upbeat is Margaret Atwood, our Canadian neighbor to the north, who reports in from “February” to tell us that although it’s “time to eat fat / and watch hockey,” we have to “get going / on a little optimism around here. /Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.”

Finally, in “At Last the New Arriving,” the wonderful Gabrielle Calvocoressi ends with these lines, perhaps the most vital medicine of all for the late winter slump: “Dance until your bones clatter. What a prize / you are. What a lucky sack of stars.”

All of these poems can be read in full on the Poetry Foundation website, poetryfoundation.org.

Thank you for finding space in your life for the remedy of poetry.

Full versions of all poems mentioned in this column may be easily found for no charge online through the site mentioned or by searching for the title and author’s name. Or consult your local librarian!

Behind the counter at the Poetry Pharmacy is Arielle Greenberg, Belfast Poet Laureate for 2019 & 2020. Arielle invites you to write in with your poetry needs to belfastpoetlaureate@gmail.com. She will fill prescriptions in this monthly column.

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