Thoughts on “Cold”

There is so much in this poetry to talk about. Some of it, I am just not sure what to make of it, but there is just as much that I find illuminating. And this is what I find central to “Cold” – the uniformity of contradictions. The line that might capture such a theme best is found on Page J: “volcanic ice.”

I love what Meg does with light in this poetry. We normally think of it as coming from above revealing from on high what is “here, below.” However, Meg does something quite fascinating: she moves the origin of illumination to “below” or, better yet, to “inside.” This idea struck me most on pages T and U – which are perfectly places side by side. On T, Meg introduces the lines with the incorporated title, “The Astronomer’s Basement.” What use does an astronomer have for a basement? Surely, it would be such wasted space. Page U helped me to see, partly, the answer to such a question. When lake ice melts from light – the source of rising temperature – the warm water below pushes the ice up. While I don’t understand the scientific explanation for why this occurs, a moment of reflection shows how this is so contrary our prima facie reason. Surely the light from above, the sun, would melt the ice on top leaving ice at the bottom of the ocean. (Again, suspend that you know that lakes freeze over leaving water below for just a moment.) However observation proves otherwise. The light comes from below, and, using the idea of a basement and water encapsulated with ice, we get the idea that it comes from within.

A geode

Meg shows more that the interior is a source of beauty. On V, Meg uses the geode to express the interior giving meaning and beauty to the exterior. A hollowed sphere lined with crystals. Placing it by the mouth – the faculty of expressing meaning – gives a mental image of light shining through crystals giving color and beauty to what is seen, not only in the crystals, but beyond them. I should note that Meg uses the adjective “systolic” to describe “pulse.” Systolic apparently refers to phase of the heart’s rhythm in which it is pumping blood into the arteries. Hence, expression, light, valuing are acts proceeding from the inward onto the outward.

This latter point about the heart and the choice of words in much of Meg’s poetry place an aspect of music into discussion. I think someone else might be able to say more about this, but I see the expression of music as expressing the harmony of contradictions. So much of this poetry reminds me of Heraclitus.

Overall, I see this poetry as a reaction against modernity. Modernity makes hard distinctions between this and that. Descartes is generally considered the starting point, and his substance dualism places the person in juxtaposition with world. As such, the world becomes instruments of use. “Cold” is an expression of the person’s integration with world giving the exterior inherent value. In this way, Meg is following the tradition of Romanticism (especially Wiliam Blake) as well as taking up ecocrticism.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on “Cold””

  1. Whether intentional or not since this focuses on the heart beating, I think it’s interesting that you talk about it her geode imagery and then into her references of the heart. It feels like it would be pretty uncommon to think of those two things connected by a meaning. But maybe speaks of something about beauty and power within? Or something else. I’d have to think more over what that connection is.


  2. One of my favorite things to hear from reviews is when they notice a theme that’s not exactly at face value, introducing either a new layer of complexity or a simplistic path along the material.


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