(SPAM Cuts) ‘Snow’ by Verity Spott
In this SPAM Cut, Maria Sledmere writes of longing, settling and elemental feeling in Verity Spott’s poem ‘Snow’, which you can read here.
> Like Lisa Robertson, like everyone, ‘I’m interested in the weather. Who isn’t? We groom for atmosphere’. The word groom reminds me of pets, of soft down you’d pull a brush through and let loose clumps of fur fly off like spores. Groom is also a seduction; to groom is to prepare someone for a specific activity. It’s January again and I am grooming myself for winter proper. This could well mean snow – remember how it snowed last year, and it was up to our knees, and there was all this chaos, suspense and precarity? I turn to Verity Spott’s poem ‘Snow’, tenderly sent to me a time last summer, was it spring; it was posted on 1st March, 2018. It was right in the thick of it. Its epigraph is taken from John Wieners’ 1986 poem ‘Cocaine’, which lends chemical intensity to both love and lyric. There is something about snow that reminisces a soft, comedown feeling; it is the sky shedding its residue serotonin, blessing us with the thrill of this elemental extra. And then of course everything bruises, blackens as slush, sings the greys and soaks our shoes. I’m not quite sure how snow is formed, I suppose it is something about crystallisation.
> Reading this poem over and over, I’d say James Schuyler, I’d say ‘A Vermont Diary’ and this sense of happening. A crystalline sequence of fractal reverie. Spott encodes the weather as it comes: ‘It started to snow at midday, maybe somewhere after’. This is a long-lined, heavily enjambed poem, plainspoken and exquisite. It’s addressed to someone, and maybe you could say it has an air of personism, and it feels like an email or letter in the sense of trying to show a friend what you see from your window, and then out the door, in the street. Last night I dreamt I fell through someone’s reality via webcam, he spoke to me from the south and I saw the mist in the hills behind him. I groom for atmosphere. It happens in ‘Snow’ very softly, softly; there is a meeting of body and weather, ‘I met it with my toes’, and a childlike joy of running after the snow, disrupting the paths of cyclists. The snow makes riches of the air, it thickens:
I ran after one and the air was ringing with you, how it impossibly felt like a world under the hand under the eye and the skin itself was my skin your skin full of snow
Chasing snowflakes, a very ancient form of jouissance, the suffusion of particles within this luminous other, the way we imagine into things, ‘how it impossibly felt’ and yet it was felt. Plunge into resistance. The more bewildered the world, the weather, the more unseasonable its manifestations, the more we long for what is ever ‘under’: layer upon layer, the promise of intimacy, authenticity. As if you could peel back the clouds for a truer sense of sky. Spott performs a sort of miniaturisation which allows for scattering; I’m reminded of Virginia Woolf in her short story ‘The Mark on the Wall’, the interruption of reverie, ‘There is a vast upheaval of matter’. Diffusion is the act of spreading light to reduce glare or harsh shadows, it is also an intermingling. Spott diffuses love and snow and chemical intensity. It is the sparkle in the air that means anything, everything: ‘It upended it started it goes out of nothing’. This ‘nothing’ prevails through the poem; it is the world’s porous container, it often expels.
> What is this ‘it’ which is sometimes snow, sometimes other? Such slippage of referent feels appropriate for articulations of weather in the Anthropocene, where we recognise our residue agency in all elemental phenomena. Where here is always suffused with there, this thing with that thing; where enmeshment goes deep. We cannot speak from a place ‘above’ what is happening in the air, the weather, the water, the earth. What is this ‘unobtainable exit dangling in the sky’? Reciting this poem, which often foregoes punctuation for a breathless reel across the lines, you find your cheeks flushed, you are warm in the reciting. It is like skating or gliding across the ice, the snow. Do all you can before it melts. It’s a trip. Lovely quotidian memories that charm, ‘remember when we accidentally won the / quiz but we were all and it was summer’. To say ‘we were all’, and this season remembered, summer gone and the perishable quality of accident, what cannot quite be repeated, and so twice over reciting the snow. Locality is disrupted by atmospheric events far away, ‘from Russian air I see the toadstools’ – we access climate as such in these overlaps of distance and intimacy. And cocaine comes from elsewhere, like snow, as snow; it is all about rush. It is an import. I am dizzy in the reading:
Now there is no you only the rising and dipping motion impossible not to simply stare and if it is, if there is hell to get into its memory drifts back and up in the order of relentless suns, waves, portholes,
In the Anthropocene, everything becomes a porthole (portkey?) for other things. This tree bears the scars of unseasonable storms, which came from elsewhere, these blueberries imbued with radiation from distant climes. So there is a collapse of this ipseity, of that. The ‘soft / falling body’ of Spott’s addressee could well be an apostrophised sky as much as a person. There are these elemental hurts that come together between body and air, skin and sense. ‘Now there is no you’ recalls Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost: ‘I was enraptured by this description of a language and behind it a cultural imagination in which the self only exists in reference to the rest of the world, no you without mountains, without sun, without sky’. In ‘Snow’, the ‘you’ is reduced to this ‘rising and dipping motion’, this rhythm of weather what it is to do a line, to read a line, to feel brief scintillations in the brain and release through that rush of ‘relentless suns, waves, portholes’ – the body’s reaction is that of the weather, it is over and over, it knows the other side, the conditional place, ‘if there is hell’.
> This poem is about desire and yearning, which probably explains why I must read it at least once a month, why I fly through it and think about it from time to time with a hunger for something dimly remembered. Glow in the snow. It is a chain reaction, it is one thing fitting together, soft click of this syntax, ‘the rising and falling light’, the diurnal time of living, the time of wanting which is a want of permanence: ‘I want to know that this snow will never / finish until the whole of the world is gone to its gentle / shoulder’. Once more, the overlay of body and world, this self that exists solely in relation to the sun and the sky, the ‘melting’ and ‘wanting’ which is of growth and decay, of weathering elisions. ‘Snow’ makes me want to eat pathetic fallacy, or more appropriately insufflate it, diffuse it in the act of a bodily instant. I want to come with the weather, go where it goes, collapse where it melts in the light and feel the light in me. I want clarity.
> A quieter comedown, a settling. The snow comes down, the mind does also, and the body it sinks just so; it is the same ‘falling’ and ‘coming gently onto the surface of the world / and remaining’. We live again, with extinction all around us, something of a quietude and blankness in this poem despite the brief appearance of wildlife. Winter without the robins of yore, ‘Wanting nothing more than for nothing / to ever have to melt again until everything at last is covered’. Everything is swept up in this ‘nothing’, and we think on the scale of the sublime, and this is a softly drawn, ubiquitous extinction which is also a kind of coat, a satin covering which sweeps over the ‘whole’ and is a destiny of sorts, is ‘everything at last’: a sort of Romantic swoon, Keats at the end of ‘Bright Star’ – ‘And so live ever—or else swoon to death’. ‘Snow’ is a poem about patience and longing, yet it burns with the ‘flesh of pure fire’ inside Wieners’ poem, it is everything that exists and everything left behind: the impossibly immortal, the ever fleeting. The memory of a time twice-lived through memory’s luminous event. It grooms the atmosphere for what we mean of love, tastes the piercing ‘powder’; ‘the world’ as motion and light, and what we have but cannot hold.
Text & Image: Maria Sledmere