The first time I ever heard of the Blizzard of ’78, I was in high school, 20 years later and a continent away. My friend’s parents had both gone to Brown, and they described to me climbing out of second story windows because the snow had piled up so high they couldn’t get out the front door of their dorm. When I got to Brown myself, I’d hear it mentioned by any Rhode Islander over 40 nearly every time it snowed more than three inches — stories about traffic slowing then stopping in situ, cars abandoned on the 95 overpass as flakes fell at two inches an hour, and the peculiar freedom and frustration of an endless snow day.
It took me several readings of Bernadette Mayer's The Golden Book of Words to connect its publication date with the blizzard. The collection is smothered in snow, cold, and claustrophobic New England living; it feels typical, but the data indicates that the weather was actually quite extraordinary that year. Exceptional weather begets exceptional poetry. Record setting snowfalls of over 7’ feet for the season, including two blizzards in short succession totaling over 4’ combined snow, and crippling New England for weeks. Sounds familiar. Who’s writing poetry in Boston this winter? Who’s making plays about it 35 years down the line?