Poetry as an Exponent Text to A Natural’s Disasters Description

Posted on January 2, 2012


(An Analysis of William Carlos Williams’ Blizzard using Intertextuality Approach)

A literary work is a reflection of the real world. Unlike scientific writings, the narratives can extend to the subjective matters. If scientific writings depend to the scientific researches and results, literary writings can be made just from the experience and imaginations of the authors. While scientific writings try to explain the natural phenomena, literary writings try to portray them. That is why literary works contents are not only the description but also the sense. Scientific writings are beneficial to explain the physical characteristics of a natural phenomenon. However, if we want to understand how it feels like, we might as well read literary works and experience it ourselves.

Authors have competence to transfer the real world to their literary “world”. Especially in poetry, where the medium is very compact, the authors will use poetic devices to help them create the desired effects for the readers. We will not get these “effects” when we read scientific writings because they focus on how to develop knowledge to overcome human problems efficiently. Meanwhile, reading literary works can give supplements to the reader to extend the references concerning the “sense and feelings”.

Blizzard is a poetry written by William Carlos Williams with natural disaster as its theme. The title clearly summarizes the content. In short, the poetry is about the condition after blizzard and how the society overcomes it. According to Riffaterre (1980) about three types of intertextuality, the relation between the poem, the scientific writings about blizzard, and the real blizzard on real life, can be categorized as the mediated type, where the poem functioning as the interpretant between the scientific writings (as the sign) and the real happening (as the object).  In this paper I would like to explain the benefit of using Blizzard as a supplement to make the scientific writings more apparent to the readers.

Basically Blizzard is a mimesis of the natural disaster with the same name. Because of that, the poem theme is a hypogram of both the scientific writings and real life. According to the official website of USA Search and Rescue Task Force, http://www.ussartf.org/blizzards.html,

Blizzards are severe winter storms that pack a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibilities.

Blizzard is one of winter precipitations. It is the most dangerous kind of falling snows. It winds over 35 mph with snow and blowing snow reducing visibility to near zero. The statistic shows potential death risk when facing blizzards, with the most notable death is likely to occur over 75% of males related to exposure to cold. So as William Carlos Williams expressed in his poem


years of anger following

hours that float idly down –

the blizzard

He describes this phenomenon and added his comment there. As we can see, the adjective “anger” tells more than just a physical description of blizzard. By using personification, he brings the interpretation of blizzard more animated than its scientific explanation. The excerpt above explains the process of blizzard-making. He portray blizzard as a cummulative feeling of anger that exploded to the earth. The adverb “idly” describes the weariness of the snow falling down the earth. Knowing his experience, I get new insight of viewing blizzard as not only a natural disaster but also the nature’s way to express its weariness of earth. The personification of anger is a comment of blizzard’s fast speed.

drifts its weight

deeper and deeper for three days

or sixty years, eh? Then

The excerpt above portrays the condition during the disaster. The snow is piled up so that it will make depth on road. He exaggerates the weight as if the blizzard is happening since sixty years ago. While in fact, he states that it is coming since three years ago. In the real life, if we encounter blizzard, we cannot do anything. We must stay at home for our safety. Moreover, the government oblige us listen to weather radio for blizzard warning. The citizens must seek refuge immediately when encounter one. I imagine that the poet must be bored with his routines. Time flies slowly when someone is bored. So, he probably wants the readers to know his feeling by presenting the hyperbole.

or sixty years, eh? Then

the sun! a clutter of yellow and blue flakes

Hairy looking trees stand out

in long alleys

over a wild solitude.

When there is a start, there is also a finish. It is impossible for having a bad weather forever. The definition of weather is a state of atmosphere at a particular time and place. The characteristic of a weather is dynamic. After blizzard, the sun rises to give its warmth. Yet, in real life, the weather is not shifted spontaneously. He describes it effectively, saying that the sun can only produce “a clutter of yellow and blue flakes”.

After expressing the weather’s condition, he describes the earth condition. As in recount, he reports the surroundings. The poet takes benefit from using personifications again to add the sense to his report. It creates the tough personality of the place.

The man turns and there –

his solitary track streched out

upon the world.

Upon reporting, he presents his own ideas of blizzard. This is the beneficial aspect of literary work; one can add his opinions without being sued for false information. Probably short after government claims that going out is now safe, he takes a walk outside. Other people may still stay at home. So he wanders in solitude, worshipping post-blizzard atmosphere.

There is no doubt about the possibilities of giving false information, as the author has freedom of expressing his thoughts. However, as a reading supplement to the scientific reports, the poem has shown a lot of strong arguments that these depictions are acceptable. The poem is directly influenced by the natural disaster. The form enables the poet to make use of literary device to enrich his description. Should we find the scientific descriptions “unanimated”, referring to literary works may totally brainstorms our thoughts and makes the stiff description easier to understand.



Gedzelman, Stanley David. “Weather.” Microsoft® Encarta® 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA:     Microsoft Corporation, 2008.

Lowell, B. (1996). “The Horatian Poetics of Ezra Pound and Robert Pinsky.” in The Classical World. Classical Association of the Atlantic States.         (http://www.jstor.org/stable/4351850, accessed 13/05/2011, 17:07)

Riffaterre, M. (1980). “Syllepsis.” in Critical Inquiry. Chicago: The University of Chicago        Press. (http://www.jstor/stable/1343223, accessed 12/05/2011, 07:21)

United States Search and Rescue Task Force. (2011). Blizzards.          (http://www.ussartf.org/blizzards.htm,accessed 29/12/2011. 20:00)

Posted in: essay, poem