I was quite young when I first learned to love Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “The Wind.” I liked the idea of the wind singing “so loud a song.” In his poem, “The Wind at Vinci,” English poet Michael Hulse, doesn’t exactly say the wind sings—at least not in those words. But does it?
~ Michael Hulse
From The Secret History (Arc Publications, 2009), pp. 99-100.
In this poem, the narrator lies awake listening to the breathing of the one who lies beside him and to “the wind across the vineyards.” The wind keens and moans but by the end of the poem, “the wind in the hills” turns into “night music.” In the meantime, it has blown his thoughts in several directions—his dying father (the wind of aging has deprived the poet's father of his ability to use language to express his thoughts and feelings), his mother (thrilling to Mozart amidst rubble from the war), to Leonardo and his paintings. When the poem circles back to the wind, it also circles back to the one lying beside the narrator.
The poem forces me to reflect on that future that is so quickly over (stanza 4) in a world where “the words and the music are wind” (stanza 5), and to ask myself how I, too, have found satisfaction in a relationship which has become home.
I was drawn in by the first line of the poem, with its creative reference to “the magi of the day” leaving their gifts (one of those futures which is so quickly over, if I am not mistaken). This biblical reference forms an additional envelope for the poem, connecting subtly to the biblical references in the next to the last stanza. Also, when the magi bring gifts, they are away from home, which links them thematically to the poet's finding home in the conclusion.
The "Author's Note," in the front of The Secret History enhances the reader's understanding of this poem and the others in the book. There Hulse speaks of "coming to terms with the difficult legacies of the two nations, England and Germany," his parents' homelands. The resulting struggle to determine his identity led him to explore his parents' lives as he sought to understand what for him was and is "home." This is his only essentially autobiographical book, and it is very nuanced.
I have read many poems about the wind, but few with the breadth, depth and subtle complexity of “The Wind at Vinci.”
Michael Hulse is an associate professor at the University of Warwick in England, where he teaches creative writing and comparative literature. He was international poetry editor for Arc from 1993 to 1999 and general editor of a literature classics and a travel classics series for Könemann from 1994 to 2001. He co-edited the best-selling Bloodaxe poetry anthology, The New Poetry (1993), ran Leviathan poetry press, and has edited the literary magazines Stand, Leviathan Quarterly and The Warwick Review. He received a Cholmondeley Award in 1991. In 2011, he co-edited The Twentieth Century in Poetry.
His poetry collections include Eating Strawberries in the Necropolis (1991); Empires and Holy Lands: Poems 1976-2000 (2002); and The Secret History (2009). Another book of poems, Half-Life, will be published in 2013. Hulse, who has lived in Germany and The Netherlands as well as England, is internationally recognized not only as a poet but also as a translator. You can read more about his work at http://literature.britishcouncil.org/michael-hulse.
Other Interesting Poems Inspired by the Wind:
* Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Wind,” A Child’s Garden of Verses, rev. ed. (Star Bright Books, 2008).
* Ellen Kort, “Five Ways of Listening to the Wind,” Notes From a Small Island (Appleton WS: Fox Print, 1994), pp. 4-5.
* Robin Chapman, “Wind in the Boundary Waters,” Abundance (Cider Press, 2009), p. 25.
* Kwesi Brew. “The Earth,” African Panorama: New Poems by Kwesi Brew (Greenfield Center, New York: Greenfield Review Press, 1981), p. 46.
* Sidney Hall Jr., “Something About the Wind,” Fumbling in the Light (Hobblebush Books, 2008).
* Ted Kooser, “In an Old Apple Orchard,” Flying At Night: Poems 1965-1985 (Pitt Poetry Series; University of Pittsburg Press, 2005).
* Georgia Ressmeyer, “Wind Lover,” Wisconsin People & Ideas, 53:4 (Fall 2007), p. 43.
* Christina Rossetti, “Who Has Seen the Wind,” The Golden Book of Poetry, 1947.
* A. A. Milne, “Wind on the Hill,” http://allpoetry.com/poem/8518981-Wind_On_The_Hill-by-A.A._Milne.
* John Masefield, “The West Wind,” Poems (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2005); There is a Youtube video of Ethel Barrymore reading “this poem at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qwmAKj4QnU).
You can find a collection of wind poems at http://www.poetandpoem.com/wind_poems.html.
December Poetry Challenge
Write a poem inspired by the wind. Your poem may be in free or formal verse (if you use a form, specify which form it is). It may be a serious poem or a light one. A poem with both depth and poetic artistry will have the best chance of winning.
Please put your name at the bottom of the poem (note the format used above).
Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If your poem has been published in a periodical, please include publication data. Poems submitted after the December 15 deadline will not be considered.
I reserve the right to declare no winner, if the judges for the month do not believe any poem submitted is quite good enough. Decisions of the judges are final.
How to Submit Your Poem:
Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot]). Put "December Challenge" in the subject line of your email. If you want a bio published with your poem should it be a winner, please include put a brief bio below your poem. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner. The deadline is December 15, 2012. Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.
© 2012 Wilda Morris