This lovely winter poem describes the wind in great, imaginative detail. It requires the reader to creatively imagine what the wind would or could taste like and smell like in unique circumstances. Plus, since the poet uses little to no details about a specific place or time, it allows the reader to imagine this poem taking place anywhere they want.
Explore In Cold Storm Light
‘In Cold Storm Light’ by Leslie Marmon Silko is a nature poem that focuses on a windy winter day.
The poem describes the wind, what it feels and tastes like, as well as what it looks like. The speaker imagines elk running through the treetops as the wind whips down from the sky and takes note of the way that the mist and snow intertwine around rocks and branches.
Structure and Form
‘In Cold Storm Light’ by Leslie Marmon Silko is a nature poem that is written in free verse and divided into two stanzas. The first is three lines long, and the second is sixteen lines long. The poet also used indention in the poem, moving some lines on the page further than others. This creates a visual of the wind movement that the poem describes.
- Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of a few literary devices. These include:
- Alliteration: occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “wind is wet” in line four.
- Imagery: the use of particularly interesting descriptions that should inspire the reader to imagine a scene in great detail. For example, “out of the thick ice sky / running swiftly.”
- Kinesthesia: the use of contrasting sensory descriptions. For example, suggesting that a sound smells like something or a taste feels like something. An example in this poem is “The wind is cold / with the sound of juniper.”
- Repetition: the use of the same literary device multiple times, for example, “moving, moving.”
In cold storm light
In the first lines of this poem, the speaker begins by describing how they were enduring a “cold storm” and the little light penetrating through the clouds while starting at the “sand rock / canyon rim.” The natural images come quickly in this poem, firmly establishing the poet’s interest in nature and one’s experiences in it.
It’s unclear who the speaker is, where they are, or why they’re there (at this point, anyway). So, readers are forced to fill in the blanks.
The wind is wet
with the smell of pinon.
The snow elk come,
Over the next few lines, the speaker uses repetition to describe the wind. It’s “wet” and “cold,” they say, but not in the traditional way. The poet’s speaker compares the wind to “the smell of pinon” and “the sound of juniper.” This is a unique example of kinesthesia that challenges readers to try to understand what it would be like to have wind that is “wet / with the smell of pinon.”
Likely, the poet chose to use this language in order to bring in as many images as possible. The wind, in its many forms, is making the speaker think about other experiences that are connected to other senses, like taste and smell.
Suddenly, the pace of the poem changes. The poet uses the two-word line “And then” to indicate a transition away from the lyrical meditation on the wind. Out of the “ice sky,” the speaker says, elk come running. They’re “snow elk.” This description is far more about the season they’re in than a specific species of elk. It is furthered by the poet’s suggestion that the elk came out of the sky.
They are “pounding / swirling above the treetops.” With the addition of this line, it seems likely that the speaker was not thinking so much of elk as they are still interested in the wind. This is likely an extended metaphor that’s meant to describe the wind in powerful detail.
The poet’s use of enjambment, and the line lengths they chose to use, are furthered through their language. This is no more true than in the eleventh-thirteenth lines.
Continuing to speak about the wind, the speaker describes the elk passing behind the branches of the trees with the “storm wind.” They note the “train of snowflakes / strands of mist / tangled in rocks / and leaves.” This alludes to the complexity of the scene and how all things, mist, wind, animals, and snow, are connected.
Additionally, by describing the snowflakes as a “crystal train,” the speaker is suggesting that the snow is falling heavily and quickly. It may also feel unending, like a train passing on the tracks with one car following the next.
The meaning is that there is a great deal of power and beauty to be found in the interconnected natural world. It’s something that should be appreciated but often isn’t, the poet may also be suggesting.
The poem is about a landscape in winter and how it is viewed with the meager “cold storm light” shining on it. The poet uses extended metaphors and imagery in order to describe the wind, mist, and snow.
This is a less-commonly read poem, but it is a great one if readers are interested in exploring unique depictions of the natural world. This poem is not straightforward, and it’s very easy to imagine the many different interpretations that readers might have of the text.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘Poem in Winter’ by Elizabeth Jennings – discusses the beauty and perfection of the snow. It sends a message to the adults who are afraid of snow falling.
- ‘Winter Rainbow’ by John Clare – a poem about lightness, darkness, hope, and despair that uses natural images.
- ‘To Winter’ by Claude McKay is a love letter to the cold winter months. The narrator of the poem laments the arrival of spring, as it means the winter has ended.