Snowshoe to Otter Creek by Stacie Cassarino explores the emotion of loss, the poet reflecting on that which she has lost in an incredibly melancholic poem. One thing that strikes me as I read the poem is how still and quiet everything seems, the employment of ‘snow’ and an eery lack of life furthering the sense of complete desolation. There is no positive resolution, the poet only sinking further into her mourning.
Snowshoe to Otter Creek by Stacie Cassarino begins with looking at what ‘vanishings’ have happened this year, everything the poet has lost. This comprises ‘a lover, yellow house, the knowledge of surfaces’, with the loss of love and home security being core things that are now missing from her life. It is the loss of her lover that propels the poem, the melancholy tone stemming from this ‘vanishing’. The poet reflects on her life, considering the presence of ‘loss’, the world around her and the promise of a future. There is no positive affirmation or change towards the end of the poem, with Cassarino only furthering the deep sense of loss and isolation the voice of the poem feels.
You can read the full poem here.
Cassarino writes the poem as one single free verse stanza, measuring 16 lines in total. The free structure of the poem reflects the inner mentality of Cassarino, with the poet ruminating on the nature of her life, quickly flitting between ideas. Yet, the frequent stop and start of the meter within the poem is perhaps emblematic of Cassarino’s self-isolation, with her melancholy leading her to stay in a remote location without human contact. There are moments of bold clarity, yet almost all of these stem from a place of negativity and self-doubt, Cassarino setting the tone of the poem as deeply melancholic.
Snowshoe to Otter Creek Analysis
“Love lasts by not lasting” – Jack Gibert
The use of this quote to head the poem instantly emphasizes the sense of loss that will permeate through the poem. Gilbert’s argument, rallied by Cassarino within the poem, is that when a love ends suddenly, for circumstances unseen, a person will go on loving after they are alone again, due to the fact they didn’t see the end coming. When a relationship is played out indefinitely, eventually there could be a moment in which the couple is no longer in love, their relationship crumbling away. Gilbert is pointing out that in these circumstances, where love suddenly ends (think death or geographical separation), the love will continue due to the unfair terms of separation – therefore, love lasting longest then it doesn’t last at all.
The poem beginnings by touching upon the first person, with the use of ‘I’m’ instantly giving the reader an insight into the personal nature of Snowshoe to Otter Creek. Following this, the verb ‘mapping’ has connotations of precision, with the poet exploring everything she has lost with intricate detail. This begins the poem with an initially tragic note, Cassarino putting effort into remembering exactly what she has lost.
The almost oxymoronic counter-connotations of ‘new year’ and ‘vanishing’ is odd within this first line. A ‘new year’ is exciting, a chance for growth and for everything to begin again. Yet, this is paired with the ominous image of ‘vanishings’ the bold sense of loss that Cassarino feels swamping all other emotions., Syntactically, these ‘vanishings’ are placed last within the line, furthering their importance and allowing for the idea of what the poet has lost to dominate the line.
Following this, within the second line of the poem, we are alerted to what Cassarino has lost, ‘lover, yellow house’ both being images of comfort and stability that have been taken away from her. This can be extended into the third item ‘the knowledge of surfaces’, furthering the sense of instability the poet feels.
The third line of the poem, ‘This is not a story of return’ is punctuated by a harsh end stop, further emphasizing the short brutality of the line. Indeed, almost all the words in the line, apart from ‘story’ and ‘return’, are monosyllabic, with the short syllable count of the line culminating in a sense of bleak clarity. Nothing is going to come back to Cassarino, nothing will be recovered, ‘this is not a story of return’ but one of loss.
In these lines of Snowshoe to Otter Creek, Cassarino seeks to fade from her own ‘mind’s lucidity’, wanting to pass the days on autopilot. The deep sense of melancholy that has settled over her is almost suffocating, the constant desire ‘to be touched / by a woman two Februarys gone’ revealing how this all stems from the loss of her love. It seems she has been abandoned, now passing the days alone in her home.
The blunt nature of ‘I stand like a stranger in my own life.’, compounded by the use of an end stop, furthers this sense of bodily disconnection. It seems that due to all Cassarino has lost, she no longer has a sense of identity, trying to distance herself both mentally and physically from the body subjected to so much loss. A self-othering or dissociation takes place, with the depression of Cassarino palpable at this stage in the poem.
By using enjambment across the twelfth line into the thirteenth, Cassarino quickens the meter of the poem, perhaps insinuating a moment of positivity. Yet, this is instantly derailed by the harsh caesura, in the form of a full stop, ‘an amassing’, the poet presenting the idea that ‘loss’ in not a ‘single moment’, but rather an extended feeling, repeating over and over.
The final lines of the poem, employing a repeated ‘?’ reflect Cassarino’s state of mind, the poet questioning herself and the state of her love. The sense of absence typifies the atmosphere of the poem, with the final image resounding on a sense of ‘missing’ furthering the idea of loss. Cassarino has no one to turn to, her isolation and confusion lingering as the poem comes to a close.