There’s undeniably something magical about looking out the window after the sun sets, or gazing up at the stars. The way the world around you seems to completely transition as light gives way to darkness can be frightening, enchanting, and breathtaking. The hauntingly beautiful time of dusk has historically lent itself well to the works of creative writers and poets.
From famous talents to more obscure lyricists, many have channeled this time of day into their writing. Here’s a selection of some of the most hypnotic poems centering around dusk that you can read until dawn.
“Winter Dusk” (1979)
To start things off, this poem is perfect for the season. There are plenty of strong images that come to mind of dusk during winter. Naturally, romantic poet Walter de La Mare decided to take the combination of two beautiful scenes and use it as a creative outlet for his work. With this backdrop, de La Mare tells the story of a grieving mother and her children trying to console her. A poignant quote here is “No cold wind stirred the wintry tree.”
“Bryant Park at Dusk” (2011)
Here’s something that will resonate with fellow New Yorkers. Contemporary writer and translator Geoffrey Brock has won awards for his poetry that makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. His take on one of Manhattan’s most iconic locations uses the stream-of-consciousness of a lonely city resident to show the atmosphere of the city at large.
Beyond just setting a mood, he also personifies the city through some elaborate metaphors. With lines like “Where all around me, rich skyscrapers/Woo the impoverished sky,” dusk (ironically) illuminates issues like class divide. This was something Brock personally took notice of, having lived in cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tallahassee, and Dallas.
“City Dusk” (1918)
That’s not to say dusk brings out the worst of the city, though. With this prose poem, the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald applies his iconic writing style to nighttime. This poem is sure to give you “Gatsby” vibes, as it turns the hustle and bustle of the city into a dreamlike, flawed wonderland. To this end, Fitzgerald uses rhyme and augments this fantastic feel: “All the faces unforgettable in dusk/Will blend to yours,/And the footsteps like a thousand overtures.”
Fitzgerald clearly has a fondness for dusk, saying he “was sick for dark,” and felt better when it came along. It’s especially fascinating that darkness would be relieving for him considering the poem was written during the dark period of World War I. If you’re a fan of Fitzgerald’s prose, this and his other poems are definitely worth checking out.
In this two-part poem, dusk shares the spotlight with other times of day. The critically lauded Delmore Schwartz uses this medley of light, gray, and dark skies to contrast the different atmospheres and discuss the tonal shift that comes with the passage of time. “And gathered blackness and overcast, the mane/Of light’s story and light’s glory surrendered and ended/—A pebble—a ring—a ringing on the pane,” Even with this solemn atmosphere, Schwartz ends his poem on a hopeful note: “By kindled light we thought we saw the bronze of fall.”
Sometimes the simplest titles can be the most evocative. With her poem “Dusk,” Margo Berdeshevsky takes a more abstract approach with her look at the darkest time of day. Rather than talking about dusk literally, she uses it to reflect the end of a life.
The story behind the poem makes sense of this dark topic: Berdeshevsky received a letter from a dying reader. In the letter, the woman said she would most likely be dead by the time her message reached its destination. Inspired by this tragic tale, Berdeshevsky wrote powerful verses like “The woman who was choosing when to die/Too young to be skeletal, skin taken wing.”
“In the half-light of dusk” (2006)
Scottish writer Thomas A. Clark’s poem is a great example of immersing oneself in a certain time and place. In a mere 14 lines, Clark paints a vivid picture of the transition between afternoon and dusk. The line in the poem that resonated with me most was “if you are alone at the edge of shadows you are not alone.” When I think about being in dusk, this is what I think of; walking alone at night, but not necessarily feeling lonely.
Hopefully, through immersing yourself in these poems, you’ll find something that you can relate to as well. There’s a lot to say on the subject of dusk, since it happens all around the world it has the potential to send universal messages. Perhaps they’ll even inspire you to put your thoughts and feelings about dusk into lyrical form.
Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.