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December 4, 2014

Sarah Addison Allen: The Magic of Poetry

Posted by emily

Sarah Addison Allen is the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS, THE SUGAR QUEEN, THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON and THE PEACH KEEPER. Her latest book, FIRST FROST, is about a strange old man with a beat-up suitcase who arrives in Bascom, North Carolina, with stories to tell...stories that could change the lives of the Waverley women forever. Here, Sarah remembers the stories --- poems, more specifically --- that her father read to her and her sister at Christmas. Those poems, more than any gift or candy she might have received, are what have remained with her through all these years.

Books and warmth, that's how I remember wintertime as a child --- a wall of bookshelves in the dining room and a wood stove in the living room. In my mind, I see a path worn in the carpet from one to the other. My dad always read at Christmas. Every year, he would pull a book off one of the shelves and read something wintry while my sister and I tore into gifts, trying to ignore him, high on the scent of wrapping paper and new plastic dolls.

Bits and pieces of snowy images come to me now from years ago, as if looking through frosted glass. “Star-Silver” by Carl Sandburg: "Baby fists, softer than snowflakes of Norway." “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost: "The only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.” “A Child’s Christmas in Whales” by Dylan Thomas: “I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.”

I didn’t realize it then, but I understand now what my dad was giving us. And it remains the best gift he ever gave me: the gift of words. I can’t remember Christmas without remembering the power of these words to create images that are now stronger than my real memories of wrapped boxes and tinsel and candy canes. Thank you, Dad.