Midwinter Song

There are so many things to write about this week to bring you down. Spent an evening with music teachers whose lives, not mere jobs, were taken from them.

And of course…


Krista Tippett — many of you know her project “On Being” — wrote about how there are now two separated worlds. One imposes itself on us. The other is the one we will not give up, our own.

Let’s get back to how remarkable it is that day after day, hour after hour, each of us keeps attending to what matters.

Here amid the ice and snow, the local coffee shop is open. My buddy David and I had our coffee and pastries this morning with the owner, Renee. Every Friday from 6-9pm, her 80-year-old dad and his buddy Ron play their guitars and sing here, two guys who have a deeeeep and long friendship that comes out as they glance at one another, nod, and smile. They’d play if no one was there.

And that is what we are all doing: playing our “guitars” and being with one another. What otherwise might simply be what we do, has become an unintended act of resistance.

No matter what — whether it’s a job, an interest, another check off the to-do list, a passion — it has become in its everyday way what keeps us going, what we hold in our hearts.

Feed the birds. Shovel the walk. Listen to your music. Head to the coffee shop, and say hi to Renee.

Midwinter Song

How good it is to be
in here, on the couch,
the dogs asleep on the pillows
as if we are safe in the great
Kingdom of Snow. Death
with its lisping end rhymes
stands under an umbrella.
The snow against the windows
is a language, its assonance
an uninvited solace. Cold
will come again. We can’t
move south. We have sweaters.
We depend on a shovel
and the neighbor’s plow.
We depend on music, on
knowing we no longer
need to say we love one
another. Love is Emanuel.
This snow. The wind.
This music on the radio
is music on the radio.
The dogs sleep with
their names. The cold,
this music, this snow.

==Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

About that Party
Okay, I really, really, really believe that you will have a great good time on April 5 at the Douglas United Church of Christ at 6:30pm, where we’re holding the reception for my new collection Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.


BECAUSE at 6:30 the shake-up-the-house choir PERSISTERHOOD will open for us, singing, and lifting your spirits above the spire.

THEN at 7pm, The John Shea Trio will take the stage with me, and we will blend the poems with exquisite jazz. John’s created a program to savor.

And then the jazz trio moves with us to the party, and we… party!

I don’t care if you have other plans, live in Germany, or 376 miles away — be there! I have no problem unselfconsciously promoting this. This party is for YOU!

More Good News

My March 30 workshop “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery” is now full. Let me know if you would like to be on the waiting list. If we get enough folks on that waiting list, we will offer it another day.

Kristin Brace’s new chapbook, Each Darkness Inside, can be ordered through April 12 from Finishing Line Press. It will be shipped in June.

Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

Daughter Meridith is featured in an interview along with her artwork in the latest Holland Weekly. Check it out at hollandweekly.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

23 thoughts on “Midwinter Song

  1. Jack,

    I just loved your Midwinter Song. It spoke to me as I sit here, with my cup of coffee, at my computer.

    I love the snow, I love winter, and the changing of the seasons.

    I even welcomed the Polar Vortex, & how it made me realize the enormous power of winter, and of its cold frigid temps. Although, on the flip side, (down side) it is the harbinger…Of climate change and its concealed dangers to our future generations.

    Your post was wonderfully, and poetically written, by our local Poet Laureate! Dawn is right Jack you are a gift! Actually, I knew that the day I met you, in your lovely home, with Julie when we wrote those post cards to the so called POTUS.

    Thanks, I needed this on my Valentine’s Day with my two lovely Valentines. Dawn took Lillian to school this morning, with her home made Valentines for her school mates…❤️ And, I gave them both my home made cards this morn, which I have always given to them every Valentine’s Day! It is a very loving tradition we have, and look forward to, just like a welcoming cup of coffee and a danish and a good friend!



    • Hi Nick, Lyrical Nick !

      We also loved the windchill weather week. Curled in with all we savor
      and most “needs” set aside, or at least postponed.

      Oh those lucky women of yours on Valentine’s Day and all days.

      And how warm to hear about you guys making your cards.

      thanks so much for telling me that you loved that poem. Feels so good.

      Coffee and snow on, my Friend!

  2. Oh, Jack. I just finished reading Fr. Richard Rohr’s meditation for the day in which he reminds us that God offers us no name other than “I AM”, no identifiers, no handles or boxes, only “pure presence.” That’s what your poem, viscerally, brought to me, that Presence. Beautiful. Thank you.

    • I am sooooooo happy to hear this, Gayle. So happy. Poetry of presence has always
      been an essential part of my “poetic.” Hey, there’s an anthology you might really appreciate.
      The title is Poetry of Presence.
      What you say about Rohr’s meditation also connects deeply with me. I had an essay sent to me
      that I hadn’t seen that says my work is spiritual work, like the way Rohr describes. To know I brought that
      to you means, well, it means everything.
      Side note: I’ve always wondered why Calvin has invited the Hope writers, but not me. I bet I offended in some
      way with my irreverent reverence. Sigh. Or maybe it’s because when Annie Dillard and Lee Smith were there they
      called Julie and me to come be with them at dinner and we did even though we weren’t invited and then when
      Lee was introduced, she came out, saw us, and walked way up into the auditorium to talk before going back
      to the stage. It was hilarious. Happy Valentines Day, great good heart, and soul.

  3. What I love about this poem is that you can’t make it up–that is, you can’t make up what is essential in it. It can only emerge out of a life in which there is room for solitude. Thanks, Jack

    • Laurie,
      You are a gift, a gift as a reader who enters the work, a gift as a friend, a gift
      as a reader who is a friend to the work. I am sooooo grateful.
      I am so thankful that you KNOW that a poem can’t be made up.

  4. I feel such love, and so grateful each Thursday morning when I receive your email.
    Thank you, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you, and Julie. ❤️❤️❤️

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Please, Debra, please please please know how much your lovingly kind and thoughtful heart
      keeps this scribbler at it.
      Thank YOU and a Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too!

  5. I feel love and grateful each Thursday morning when I open your email. Thank you for you, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Julie. ❤️

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Hi Jack,

    Thanks for the shout out. I really appreciate it. 💕

    Also, great news! We can now come to your book release party! It made more sense for us to make our Madison trip Saturday through Monday rather than Friday through Sunday, so we will still be around. It sounds like it will be a smashing good time.

    In other exciting news that I just have to share, we are buying a house! It has a few acres of woods, a big inventor workshop for Neal, and a sturdy shed that I can transform into a studio. (Ha – the house itself is great, too.) Stay tuned for a house warming invitation, likely this fall.

    XO, Kristin

    • YOU BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!!! And it sure sounds as if it has what enables
      you two to be you two!

      AND—you can come to the party. That makes me so happy, too. I yelled
      to Julie, “Kristin and Neal can come after all!!!” Get your mom to
      come. I know she’ll love all we have cooked up!

      Sooooo happy for the joys coming to you two!

    • Linda, to hear “lovely poem” lifts this heart, sustains the project.
      (Shhhh, but I love that line, too.) : )
      My gratitude is in every snowflake and stitch in those sweaters!

  7. Jack, this post reminded me, I’m enough! For a moment, I think I forgot I already had the power to anoint myself with that permission. Then your words slid in and reminded me.

    Today myself so needed that. My difficult details are common but currently, they’re mine to unwind. And the unwinding is hard and confusing and isn’t leaving much room for the big stuff the ‘world’ labels important. But it is important.

    So on this day, when my to do list isn’t even a list because I don’t have the energy to fill it out, your words give me license to be.

    Thanks Jack. XO

    A Traditional Foods Enthusiast

    • Sandy,
      First I’m very glad for the serendipity of comfort coming to you at this time.
      But then again, I’m sorry for that. And Julie and I care. Oh do we ever care.
      Please take care of you, you who takes care of everyone and everything.
      Your great good heart needs you!!!!
      Love all the time,
      Jack and Julie

  8. Oh, those two worlds. Thank you for continuing to make a space where the music on the radio is the music on the radio. It is, indeed, a resistance. And the guitars at Respite! (I assume it’s Respite? But maybe not? I can recall hearing Sam play the Edmund Fitzgerald there 20 years ago.) Sending much love to you and Julie and the pups.

    • Maureen!
      Talk about a joy! Hearing this from you. And hearing from you. And you!

      Thaaaank you so very much. And I’m glad you’re in the world, too, and
      that I get write to you each week!!!

  9. Dear Jack,
    Thank you for your Midwinter Song. Makes me float while reading it. And please, do extend my sincere compliments to Renee and the two gentlemen at the guitars. I do not know the three of them, but it is certainly a gift that they are there, doing what they do.
    Grateful greetings from Germany where we are having a whiff of spring and where the first butterfly was making its entree in our garden yesterday.

    • Dear Reinhard,
      I love hearing from you! It feels as if you live right next door to us. I’ll be
      having coffee on Wednesday and will be sure to give Renee, her dad Sam, and his
      pal Ron your compliments. They will be delighted, Renee especially since she
      only a couple weeks ago returned from a time in Germany! We are NOT having
      a whiff of spring; however, for the first time in weeks the sky is cloudless
      and the sun is bright, sending sparkles across the landscape.
      With deep gratitude,

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