Charis Southwell, a graduate cum laude of Brigham Young University, died at the age of twenty-nine, while still developing her poetic talents. Her Collected Poems, therefore, contains pieces of varying quality; but among them are several of lasting value which we are fortunate to have permanently preserved.
The poems take various directions, some relatively stylized and elaborate in the manner of the (now old) New Critics, most much more direct and open in the contemporary mode. To this reviewer, the latter seem more successful. For instance, in “Snowed In,” a family awaits Christmas in the country. The snow is high. There is a chance the advancing snow plow may reach them in time for them to have a conventional Christmas, complete with store-bought presents; there is a chance it may not. The atmosphere is perfectly rendered, balanced between the two possible futures. The fulcrum of the poem is the sound of the nearing snow plow, a mixed blessing which causes the narrator to ponder, “What might have come of one more solitary morning/Silent, dark, and waiting?” Understated yet fully accessible, the emotions of the poem are created by the poem itself.