Welcome to this month’s poetry classroom, with poet Daniel Bowman, author of A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Country. We invite you to respond to the poems we’ll share here—their forms, images, sounds, meanings, surprises—ask questions of Dan and each other, and write your own poems along the way.
Hymn for a Mohawk January
Ashes bring hard faith:
in my vision, only the late nigrescence,
the symphony at Stanwix,
and always the open field.
I cross the street,
ignoring light from the corner.
And here, still, my shocked valley
of pumps and furnaces raging.
1. How would a hymn for a Seattle January perhaps drive a poem like this differently?
2. What if the poet had titled the poem, “Hymn for the Mohawk Valley”? What new directions and structures could the poem have then taken?
3. Have you heard of the word “nigrescence”? As a poet, why consider using an unusual word like this in a poem?
4. How does the poet bring the poem full circle? Does it create any particular effect?
5. Does the poem tempt you to discover the history of the Mohawk region? If you delve into the history of the region, does it change anything for you about the meaning of the poem?