January brings colder temperatures and the micro-seasons of Minor Cold (Jan. 06- Jan. 20) and Major Cold (Jan 20-Feb 03). It is also the time when the wind chill is frequently mentioned in the weather forecasts.
What is Wind Chill?
The wind chill factor is the rate of heat loss from the skin as a result of the wind and cold. For those math-minded people the formula for this is:
- Wind chill (ºF) = 35.74 + 0.6215T – 35.75(V^0.16) + 0.4275T(V^0.16)
- Where: T = Air Temperature (F)
- V = Wind Speed (mph)
- ^ = raised to a power (exponential)
For those of us who might not be so math oriented, this formula says that as the wind increases, the wind draws away heat from the exposed skin. This can then result in lower internal body temperatures.(1) The higher rate of wind chill, the greater the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.
The National Weather Service provides us with this explanation.
“If the temperature is 0°F and the wind is blowing at 15 mph, the wind chill is -19°F. At this wind chill temperature, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes”(1)
As you can imagine, frozen skin is a pretty serious health condition. Frostbite, which is the common term for the freezing of the skin and underlying tissues, can cause damage to the skin, muscles, and bones.(2) In cases of severe frostbite, the skin can die and needs to be removed.
Given the dramatic impact that January can have on our lives, either through wind chill or just a drop in temperature, it is no surprise that there are poems written about this time of year.
Helen Hunt Jackson will provide us with the first poem about this time of year.
“January” by Helen Hunt Jackson
O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire, What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire The streams than under ice. June could not hire Her roses to forego the strength they learn In sleeping on thy breast. No fires can burn The bridges thou dost lay where men desire In vain to build. O Heart, when Love’s sun goes To northward, and the sounds of singing cease, Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace. Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose. Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows, The winter is the winter’s own release.
As I read this poem, I am really struck by the first couple of lines. The “frozen pulse and heart of fire” and the “snow a sculptured urn”. These lines conjure up thoughts of a battle of life and death being waged on the landscape.
The next poem by William Carlos Williams is also titled “January”. In this poem, Williams also talks about the winds, but perhaps in a somewhat playful manner.
“January” by William Carlos Williams
Again I reply to the triple winds running chromatic fifths of derision outside my window: Play louder. You will not succeed. I am bound more to my sentences the more you batter at me to follow you. And the wind, as before, fingers perfectly its derisive music.
What I enjoy about this poem is the relationship between Williams and the wind. It is almost like the wind is teasing or luring him, but he will not falter from his writing. Such a steadfast dedication to his craft!
Haiku about winter wind
Matsuo Bashō, Kobayashi Issa, and Masaoka Shiki also wrote poems about winter winds. Below are a few examples of their work.
Winter solitude — In a world of one color the sound of wind. -Basho
Bleak is the Winter White is the Color And the Sound of Wind -Basho
winter wind-- he can't find his roost the evening crow -Issa
winter wind-- yet the inlet's birds get along well -Issa
winter wind from off the mountain... night howling -Issa
cold winter blast a cord of a sedge hat cut into my neck -Shiki
My favorite haiku out of this group is Basho’s “Bleak is the winter.” These three lines seem to capture my winter experience. Sometimes things seem bleak, they are usually white and covered with snow, and the wind is always there.
- National Weather Service; Wind Chill Questions
- Mayo Clinic; Frostbite
- Helen Hunt Jackson; “January”
- William Carlos Williams; “January”. This poem can also be found in Williams’ 1921 book Sour Grapes.
Naturalist Weekly also has several curated book lists including one dedicated to William Carlos Williams, haiku, and all the books featured on our blog.
Looking for more haiku from Issa? Visit David G. Lanoue’s website The Haiku of Kobayashi Issa
Want to support our work? Visit the Naturalist Weekly bookstore and browse our curated lists of books of poetry and haiku. Or pick up a gift card that can be used throughout the store.
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Reblogged this on Art, Music, Photography, Poetry and Quotations.
Thanks or another great post and wonderful selection of poetry.
Hi Goff, Thanks for the comment and I am glad that you enjoyed the post!
Hey, Mark. Like you, I’ll leave the math to the professors and just remember to bundle up on those windy winter days that take the breath right out of your lungs! I loved the poetry here as well (as always). I’m fascinated with the sonnet format (I have a couple on my blog), so Jackson’s piece really appealed to me. WCW’s playful poem was really cool. And, of course, the haiku masters! Oddly enough, just last night I was thinking about writing one of my six-haiku collections with each haiku beginning the with the same line, and then I see Issa has three haiku here beginning with “winter wind.” I suppose I could still try it sometime, but there’s no way to compete with someone of his stature (or Basho or Buson, et al). As cold as it gets here when the wind blows in January, I can’t imagine how cold it must be in your neck o’ the woods. The family farm in Utah would dip to as low as -20F during the winter nights (and as high as 110F in the summers), and it always amazed me that the livestock could survive those frigid temperatures in the winters. Anyway, good stuff, Mark, and thanks as always for including the haiku masters. 🙂
Hi Mike, Glad that you found some stuff in here that spoke to you. I really liked Williams poem. It was very clever. I think you should totally try the haikus with the same opening line. I do that a lot in my notebooks. For me it is more about getting the words correct and sometimes it totally changes the meaning. I keep am eye out for them if you choose to write a series. Thanks for adding to the converstation. And suppose to be -5 later this week with a wind chill of -20. That is cold enough for me.
Reblogged this on Frank J. Tassone and commented:
#Haiku Happenings #5: Mark S. presents haiku by Basho, Issa, and Shiki (scroll down for the haiku)!
I love Basho’s haiku also! It distills the sparse, stark nature of winter.
Hi Phil, Thanks for the comment! I agree, Basho’s haiku just captures the season perfectly. Talk soon,
Oh, that wind chill can be brutal. I didn’t realize there was a formula for it, but it makes sense there would be one. Here’s one I wrote about the wind awhile back:
pine boughs bent with snow
birds hide from numbing death
in withering winds
Hi Lisa, This is great! I always appreciate it when you add your own work to these collections! Thank you.
You’re very welcome. I appreciate your posts and the poetry selections you include.
pine boughs bent with snow /
birds hide from numbing death /
in withering winds
thanks again for another labour-of-love collection, Mark. I find them all engaging – my special love here is Basho, though ‘… in a world of one colour…’ I never knew of windchill before I moved to the UK (from continental Germany) but I had to learn fast, especially after moving from North Wales at sea level to landlocked county Nottinghamshire in England. Interested to hear there is a formula, but still wonder whether the social experience of windchill isn’t more to do with postindustrial disregard to biological rhythms (and lack of double-glazing which I was also unaware of before moving to the UK). Writing from centrally heated apartment in the Rhine valley, nr Bonn.
Hi Barbara, Glad that you enjoyed the poems! Basho seems to be very good at capturing the essence of winter! Wind chill is one of those things that I become very aware of early in the mornings if I am outside before the sun rises. You can feel it in those parts of uncovered skin very quickly! I will say an unexpected benefit of having to wear a mask everywhere now is that at least my face is warm in the winter winds! Thanks for your continued support and comments. Have a great weekend
Hi Barbara, Glad that you enjoyed the poems! Basho seems to be very good at capturing the essence of winter! Wind chill is one of those things that I become very aware of early in the mornings if I am outside before the sun rises. You can feel it in those parts of uncovered skin very quickly! I will say an unexpected benefit of having to wear a mask everywhere now is that at least my face is warm in the winter winds! Thanks for your continued support and comments. Have a great weekend.
Love the Basho haiku! January in New Zealand is high summer so poems that specifically reference the name of the month completely ignore our experience in the southern hemisphere!
Hi Ms. Liz, You are so right about that and it is a good point! You January winds are much different than ours!
Love the wintery Haikus, I like this one by Takahama Kyoshi:
In a large and loose way,
The winter crow.
Thanks for adding this haiku! I like it!
Thanks for adding this haiku! I like it!