Penn’s Kelly Writers House to hold popular ‘Mind of Winter’ program

One must have a mind of winter
“The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens

Winter-inspired readings, homemade soup, and a roaring fire are featured during “Mind of Winter,” a popular Kelly Writers House program.

Marking its 15th anniversary, "Mind of Winter" is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Writers House on Locust Walk. Soup will be served at 5 p.m., and readings will begin about 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The tradition started as “a way to bring the Writers House community together at a time of the academic year when things are often dark and dull and chilly,” says Penn English Professor Al Filreis, founder and faculty director of the Writers House.

“We wanted our midwinter celebration to stave off the dark and cold, to be secular and aesthetic. Poetry is our heavenly stuff,” Filreis says. “And collaborative, communal, collective close reading of poems is our mode of being together—of being intellectually democratic and reciprocal.”

Jessica Lowenthal, Writers House director, says it is one of her favorite events.

“We acknowledge that it can be a tough time of year, and combat it with warm feelings and warm things,” she says.

The soups are made by the Writers House staff members, which this year include carrot soup, beef stew, and a couple of vegan selections, along with crusty bread and hot chocolate. It is also the only day of the year scheduled to light a fire in the living room fireplace.

“The Snow Man,” a poem by Wallace Stevens, is the featured selection, read by the group, with a discussion led by Filreis, an expert on Stevens. 

Six other Penn community members will be reading favorite winter-themed pieces during the event, including students, faculty, and staff from Penn’s College of Arts & Sciences: Lily Applebaum, Kelly Writers House staff and a 2012 graduate of the College; senior Clare Lombardo; Carmen Machado, artist-in-residence, Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing; sophomore John Odera; sophomore Carlos Price-Sanchez; junior Regina Salmons; and senior Pallavi Wakharkar.

“You can be so cold and so stuck and so still as to seem to have nothing but nothing in your head. No thought,” Filreis says. “But just when you have the thought of no thought, you realize that the imagination is coming back and you are not inhuman after all, and your mind works. It requires this low, frozen contemplation to get back to the point where you realize that the mind is always alive.”

Visit the Writers House website for an archive of “Mind of Winter” programs. 

Kelly Writers House