“Various long midwinter Glooms. / Various Solitary and Terrible Stars”: Alice Oswald’s “Various Portents”

AliceOswald_VariousPortentsI’m partial to poems that are lists; it’s always impressive when a poet can give an impression of action, or set a mood, simply by making a list of items.

Alice Oswald is a poet I know nothing about, but a quick look at her biography at The Poetry Foundation intrigued me; I’m now itching to read Memorial, her treatment of the Iliad, and Dart, a book that’s based on her research into the history of the community around a river in Devon, England.

“Various Portents” is subtly ominous and a bit wintry; it made me think of Game of Thrones (though no, I still haven’t read the book). What do you think of the poem?

13 thoughts on ““Various long midwinter Glooms. / Various Solitary and Terrible Stars”: Alice Oswald’s “Various Portents”

  1. I like it, although I have no idea what it means. But what do you think she’s doing with the capitalization? At first, I thought she was just being Germanic and capitalizing all the nouns, but then she stopped using it quite so much. It seems a little Victorian, because they liked to capitalize all kinds of words that we don’t capitalize now. And BTW, I think that Game of Thrones would be right up your alley.

  2. I like her repetative sounds: Various Various Many Minute Many Much Much etc… I wonder if this is a chant because of that. I also felt the beginning as being old in time and then she mentions telescopes and digitally enhanced heavens which made time speed up to the here and now and then perhaps recede again by the end when she talks of spindles and soothsayers. I really liked the whole thing. It somehow feels real and magical at the same time. Like a Druid-Astronomer’s Winter.

  3. Hey Carolyn! Boy, I really like this poem and the poet. I’m going to do a unit on contemporary poets in my AP class. I might start with the poem, “The Self-Playing Instrument of Water.” Thank you for showing me a new poet! Love, AJ

  4. Oh, this sounds just beautiful. My library shows all but one of her volumes as reference copies only, but I will be keeping out for her all the same (or, perhaps, planning an outing to the reference library). Thanks for posting about her!

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