Winter Poems: No.3 Snow Day by Billy Collins

Poem no. 3 for my winter series is ‘Snow Day’ by Billy Collins.

and it’s a wonderful example of what makes Collins’ poems accessible, conversational and often, ‘quirky’.

I began reading lots of Billy Collins last year and haven’t stopped since. I recently enjoyed his Poetry MasterClass which I highly recommend.

‘Snow Day’ by Billy Collins (online) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46707/snow-day (accessed 11th December 2019)

There’s plenty to learn from Billy Collins’ poetry but something that stands out to me is his facile ability to observe. His conscious connection to everyday detail and his reflection on life in general is delightful.

I think my work has to do with a sense that we are attempting, all the time, to create a logical, rational path through the day. To the left and right there are an amazing set of distractions that we usually can’t afford to follow. (Billy Collins)

In sharing his point of view we are given an opportunity to sense the familiar.

Moments and interactions that we usually let pass without thought, suddenly feel valuable and meaningful. A reminder not to take the mundanity of daily life for granted.

I think the pace of this poem does a wonderful job of echoing the feeling of lazing around on a snow day. No rushing, only the simple, sheer enjoyment of white-peace that comes with a deep blanket of snow.

snow day billy collins kat healy poet poem singer singersongwriter blog

This poem is a great example of how Collins uses set ‘scenes’ to effortlessly draw the reader through a poem.

I often find his poetry offers a sense of ease in its structure; a solid beginning, middle and end. As a reader, it’s this sense of ‘ease’ which brings the space for enjoyment – there’s no friction, no ‘what’s happening now?’

The poem opens with the observation of a snow day:

a revolution of snow,   
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,

Words like ‘blankness/smothered/noiseless’ emphasise the familiar experience of a snow white-out, everything standing still, no creatures or people, just snow.

‘In a while I will put on some boots’ sets the tone for the overall energy of the piece, reflecting the energy and pace of the narrator in the current moment. He will simply ‘make a pot of tea’ and take the day as it unfolds.

snow day kat healy billy collins poem poet poetry blog

The next two stanzas highlight the power of Collins’ playful approach to language. By choosing to use familiar ‘kiddie’ words we are drawn into the world of imagination.

Nostalgically, I’m carted back into my own experiences of cheering for snow days – how I loved them!

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School   
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

The final two stanzas feel more grounding with further observation of people and place, and the rather more tender description of children hiding in ‘nests’.

A highlight for me is the internal rhyme in the last line. I find it offers a chance to latch on to the physicality of the scene:

all darting and climbing and sliding,

Finally, the gentle sense of circularity as he refers to the ‘grandiose silence of the snow’ which lulls us back into the picture of a white-out.

Then, in true quirky fashion, he ends with a playful twist:

‘which small queen is about to be brought down.’

Snow plotting! …haven’t we all been there?


If you have any winter poems you would like to share on the blog – please let me know in the comments. Or, if you’d like to share something of your own – just get in touch!

#MerryChristmas #Advent #FroheWeinacht


Listen to ‘Winter’ by Kat Healy

Listen to ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, a cover by Kat Healy

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