Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Over Utah in January" - Geography in Poetry

"Over Utah in January" 
by Virginia Knowles

I am in the sky looking down on
Vast speechless stretches of frozen white
Curved round and round by
Slicing crevices and streams
And human roads abandoned though they be
Foothills then soaring mountains beyond
Majestic tall yet distant small
From the sky where I look down

Clustering pines (wilderness steeples)
Defer to barren ground below
Shedding to it cumbering, nurturing snow

Upright spires green
Evergreen over branches, trunks, 
Rough and woody brown
Rooted deeply into ascending slope
Yet as living arrows aiming high
To the sky where I look down

Up and over mountain towers, fly
Peering through mottled fog outstretched
Amid earthy upturned layers, variegated ripples
Shadow clouds now upwisping 
Sharply angled peaks

Oh! These are of no human construct or design
Not even marked by footprints in pristine snow
Just fingerprints, signatures divine
Where winter earth meets winter sky

Yet in the valley I see manly habitation
In patterned rows, casual curves beneath the mist
Nestled in yet beckoned to a deep and high communion

Only bold ones venture beyond certain fringes
Strive upward, breathe hard, ascending steep, behold

Some faithful cannot climb 
But still lift souls to see
To know and long to know
Others seem content merely to stroll 
In evenness beneath, below
Oblivious to wonder

I am in the sky looking down
Then gazing up in awe at Him
Who gazes down in grace on me below
On me, who sees and longs to know.

I just started teaching a 6th-7th grade integrated American history, geography and English class three days a week at a private Christian school.  Today, we were talking about some of the geological features of the western United States, especially mountains.  I told them how I had the opportunity several years ago to fly to Salt Lake City for my grandmother's funeral, and how awestruck I had been in the airplane while looking out the window.  Before we even landed, I started writing the poem "Over Utah in January."   While I was there, my aunt gave me a digital camera, and I took these pictures and many more to go along with the poem.

I tied this in to the writing process, which we are also learning. I had already been encouraging my students to observe the world around them as inspiration for their writing.  I used this as an example, as well as my recent blog post, Catch It While You Can.  In addition, I told them about the value of having other writers critique your work.  When I write poetry, I usually send a draft copy to my step-cousin Dan, a poet, artist, musician and teacher whom I met at Grandma's funeral.  Though he is very different from me in many ways, in other ways we think alike (such as our love for wonder and beauty), and he always helps me out.

So I'm posting this here because tomorrow I want to read this poem to them and show them a few of the pictures to go along with it.   You can see more about it here on one of my other blogs: Three Poems and the Stories Behind Them, Starting with a Funeral


Virginia Knowles

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