Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They're always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions. —J.D. Salinger

Poets and Nature

Poetry and prose are two different paths toward the same goal—evoking emotion and understanding in the reader. The themes and the forms are different, but the intent is the same. That’s why poetic devices are essential tools for a prose author’s toolbox. Metaphors, imagery, and rhythm can bring a scene to life in the reader’s mind.

The Weather *Is* Personal

The above quote from J.D. Salinger makes me laugh because, of course, there’s some truth to it. Many poems focus on nature and some even personify elements of it. (“I wandered lonely as a cloud,” comes to mind.) But usually, the reader understands that this is not meant to be a literal truth, but a figurative one.

The world around us makes us feel all kinds of ways. And sometimes we feel something, and the world reinforces it. Of course, J.D. Salinger knows that as well as any writer. The world around us becomes personal when it’s observed by a person, whether that’s the author or a character within the narrative.

Even Salinger Does It

One of the scenes from The Catcher In The Rye that stands out in my memory is the one in which Holden is on the way to the Museum of Natural History and thinks about his sister, Phoebe, and how she’s growing and changing. He reflects on the comfort of the museum and how things are always suspended in time there. “Certain things they should stay the way they are,” he observes. “You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.”

Now who’s taking things personally?

The art of writing depends on careful observation, not only of places, people, and objects, but of how things are like other things. Weather included. Whether someone’s eyes are stormy or the drizzle makes us feel gloomy or the cloud is lonely, the link between human emotions and weather is often felt on a gut level.

If you’d like to think about ways to use weather in your writing, check out this week’s micro lesson and craft exercise.

Wishing you blue writing skies!