New Poet (to me) : Pippa Little and Overwintering

Pippa Little, Award Winning Author of Overwintering
I always believe that poets whose work I admire will be admirable people and more often than not, it turns out to be true. This was certainly the case with  Pippa Little whom I met last summer after she won a fellowship to attend my workshop at the Anam Cara Artists Retreat on the Beara Peninsula in the west of Ireland.

Only after we'd been together several days did Pippa quietly mention that her second book of poems Overwintering would be out this fall. And I'm so glad she did. I've been reading and rereading these poems for the pure joy of her language. I've started word lists from the book which include the delectable: eyelash, lipstick, seahorse, and sea-coal (what is sea-coal). And then there are her rhymes: obsidian, vermillion, and pavilion --- all handled with amazing subtly and grace in a villanelle honoring the statue of Franz Kafka in Prague.

Little's work manages to be personal and global sometimes in the same poem. As with all good poems, it's much more a pleasure to read the work then words about the work and so here are two of my favorites.


Lying in his last bed
my father remembered his feet
far down in the dark, lost
like a ticket:

cold and soft untouchables
they are forgetting about shoes,
about the metallic lips of the stairs
about the earth's axis.

         Pippa Little

(I've ingested this poem over and over. It only gets better and better.)

And here's another that I keep returning to --- although each time I am surprised.


Hope is winter light --
its wordless drench on skin.

Is a button from the button tin
cloudless tone just right
for the coat you're walking in --

hope is a three-toed signal in the snow,
a bird paused here
that's all you know --

hope is a pocket-stone forgotten long ago
found by your hands and known
as corm is married to loam:

is day arriving numb and slow.
Hope is a coat, that's all.

You pace the cracks, each step
a whisper: don't let go
while catching up, behind, that echo,
letting go, letting go.

         Pippa Little

Spend some time with this poem -- especially if you are returning from a walk in the snow. It does the work of beautifully describing the sensation of a journey in fresh snow (both looking inward and outward) and of saying something unsayable about hope. And perhaps loss, as well.

Overwintering is published by Oxford Poets / Carcanet Press. Lucky for me it is available in the US as well as the UK. Highly recommended for your holiday reading. I promise this is a poet we will be hearing more from. She is just getting started. After winning major prizes in England for her first book --- and then taking a decade or so off to raise a family; she is back --- just reaching her full powers.


  1. So lovely. Thank you for the introduction. Have put the book on my list so I don't forget about it.

    Wishing you the beauty of the season and much wonderful writing in the coming New Year.

    1. Thank you so much, Maureen. I wish you the same. May our paths cross in person one day. Wishing you light, laughter, and poetry for 2013!


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