“Snow Approaching on the Hudson”

August Kleinzahler

A Poem and Notes

August Kleinzahler, our favorite “witty, gritty poet” (Publishers Weekly), penned two original pieces for FSG’s National Poetry Month. The poem “Snow Approaching on the Hudson” offers a striking and atmospheric view of New York City. In “Notes on Snow Approaching,” Kleinzahler steps back and meditates on the sights, spaces, and sensations that inspired the poem.

Passenger ferries emerge from the mist
      river and sky, seamless, as one –
           watered ink on silk

then disappear again, crossing back over
      to the other shore, the World of Forms –
           as-if-there-were, as-if-there-were-not

The buildings on the far shore ghostly
      afloat, cinched by cloud about their waists –
           rendered in the boneless manner

Cloud need not resemble water
      water need not resemble cloud –
           breath on glass

The giant HD plasma screen atop Chelsea Piers
      flashing red and green –
           stamped seal in a Sesshu broken ink scroll

A tug pushes the garbage scow, left to right, toward the sea
      passing in and out of the Void –
           vaporizing gray, temporal to timeless

Clouds wait, brooding for snow
      and hang heavily over the earth
           Ch’ien Wei-Yen

Bustle of traffic in the sky, here, as well, on the shore below
      obliterated –
           empty silk

The wind invisible
      spume blown horizontal in the ferry’s wake –
           wind atmosphere, river silk

Notes for “Snow Approaching on the Hudson”

Envelop in cloud or sink into blankness

Monochrome landscape painting in ink

Blow-cloud method Apply white powder lightly on silk

Clouds appear to have volume but show no traces of ink

Splashed ink without shaping lines


Sesshu Haboku landscape Hatsuboku Broken ink

Clouds rendered by leaving parts of painting surface untouched by wash

Jan an overall wash

Snow – spaces left free of ink

Snow suggested by omission

Ink pine soot mixed w/glue

Zither rough, unadorned, without strings the body of the instrument
      contains within itself all possible sound

A sea of flat, indefinite space fore and middle ground

Empty silk

Wet, glazed washes of rock

Winter moods

Juxtaposition of ink tones

Soft, wet washes

River landscape in Wind and Snow

Clouds and vapors mist and haze mist-cloud

Clouds and snow may swirl aloft without the use of white color

Breath-force abstract space

Flat distance vistas

Wind-swept stream

Concealed by mist


Even if outlines are clear they appear to have come out of the mist and dew

Ability to render blank spaces into rising and falling, opening and closing
    breath-force movement

Different tones of ink run into each other creating the impression of wet, blurry surface

Cloudlike mountains seem to float in the picture plane

Wafting mists

Interpenetration of solids and voids

Landscape forms seem to simultaneously emerge from and recede behind
    dense, wafting mists

When mist and haze encircle/cinched their waists the trees and buildings seem taller

Mottled outlines and ink washes that wrestle landscape forms from the silk surface

Graded ink washes diminish and fade into the distance

Ghostly building

River indistinct from silk

Silver, pewter, gray

Breath on glass

August Kleinzahler was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1949. He is the author of eleven books of poems and a memoir, Cutty, One Rock. His collection The Strange Hours Travelers Keep was awarded the 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize, and Sleeping It Off in Rapid City won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. That same year he received a Lannan Literary Award. He lives in San Francisco.