Writing on Winter Afternoons

Writing on Winter Afternoons

On some days, I love reading Emily Dickinson. But I have to be in a “mood” to read her. One of my favorite poems of hers is “A certain Slant of light.” Cold, empty winter afternoons remind me of this poem, and today is one such day. Enjoy:

“There’s a certain Slant of light”

Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

There’s a certain Slant of light,DSCN5922

Winter Afternoons –

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes –


Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –

We can find no scar,

But internal difference,

Where the Meanings, are –


None may teach it – Any –

‘Tis the Seal Despair –

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air –


When it comes, the Landscape listens –

Shadows – hold their breath –

When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance

On the look of Death –

I used to read this poem to my students when I taught American Literature. I use the word “read” instead of “teach” because—like Emily said—“None may teach it.” The poem is not a story. It is a feeling, a moment, an impression that comes when the winter seeps into one’s soul when the angled rays of the sun streams though a cold pane, casting crooked rectangles on the floor.

That moment forces my thoughts to freeze, almost as if I’ve been stunned. It comes from nowhere and leaves without warning, taking something of me with it, leaving a hollow space—at least for a while.

What good can a poem like that, or a feeling like that do for a writer? It fills her with “mood,” “setting,” “feelings,” and “ideas”—not the “story” of a book but the depth of a book. I welcome those moments, the ones that steal in like a thief, take what is theirs, and leave me with literary riches.



About Vicki Wilkerson Author

I am a homegrown, Southern author. My newest release in the Summerbrook Series, FIREFLIES and LIES, is now available in paperback and digital on Amazon and in select shops. SWAMPS and SOIREES, SWEET TEA AND TIME and BIKERS AND PEARLS (The Summerbrook Novels) are also available on Amazon and in numerous outlets. Look for the next series, The Lake Marion Novels, coming in 2019!
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