by Adrian Henri
See the conquering hero winter comes
Frost on the palmhouse windows mist covering the
Swans somehow not frozen in their lakes
Taking our walk instead in the city
Out of the warm
Neat O’Cedar floor you just polished
Snow up steps corrugated-iron door black wall
cathedral disappearing into the mist
Only the railings hard fringed with white like the laurel-
Tiny drops of water frozen from falling
Snow stained pink in the ash round doorstep and dustbins
Pagoda in the square Japanese with willow trees for us
Violet cellophane sweet paper singing against pavement snow
Cold hands through woolly gloves
Writing this in summer wondering
Where are the snows of yesterday?
You can hear Adrian Henri (1932 -2000) reading Winterpoem here in 1969. What do you think? It’s so different hearing a poem read out compared to reading it for yourself, isn’t it? I was expecting the reading to be quicker but what Henri does is make the listener aware of every word in the poem and that’s how it should be. I like the idea of winter as a ‘conquering hero’ and the lines ‘Swans somehow not frozen into their lakes’ and ‘violet cellophane sweet paper singing against pavement snow.’ ‘The choice of the verb ‘singing’ is unusual but that’s what poets do – they choose words that take you by surprise and make you think. I can see the cellophane. I bet it’s from Quality Street’s caramel and brazil nut sweet. Bet you anything.
One thing I didn’t know about Adrian Henri was that he was brought up in Rhyl in North Wales and went to St Asaph Grammar School. St Asaph being where I am Patron of Reading at Ysgol Esgob Morgan, of course. Small world.