Themes

A man clearing deep snow from a road
The weather is a key theme of ‘Letters from Yorkshire’

A number of unifying ideas or themes run through the poem. Different readers may attach more or less significance to each of these themes, depending upon how they view the poem.

ThemeEvidenceAnalysis
Communication: the poem focuses on letters between two people who are apart from each other.'Letters', 'write to me', 'singing', 'feeding words onto a blank screen', 'sends me word', 'envelope', 'tap out messages'.The many references to communication in the poem establish how important it is for the two people, although apart, to keep in contact. The messages may be everyday ones, but the act of communicating is seen in much more extraordinary and personal terms - 'our souls tap out messages'. 'His knuckles singing' refers to another form of communication in a metaphor, comparing the sharp pain of the cold with the notes of a song.
Seasons/nature: many references to weather and the passing of time. The male letter writer is gardening and seems close to nature.'February', 'the first lapwings', 'seeing the seasons turning', 'breaking ice', 'clearing ... snow', 'pouring air and light', 'icy miles'.The lapwings returning are a sign that Spring is on its way, even though the February landscape is still wintry. The poet contrasts the icy conditions with the hope for Spring that comes from the man's letters, into which he is 'pouring air and light'. The reference shows the reader how much the speaker welcomes his letters. References to the man's life, his gardening and being close to nature, could be seen as appealing, even though it is 'simply how things are'.
News: two kinds of news – 'daily headlines' and letters'headlines', 'sends me word', 'the news'.The poet contrasts two kinds of news; the daily news headlines they both know about, even though they are far apart, and the personal news they share in the letters to one another.
Question

What is the significance of the phrase, 'me with my heartful of headlines'?

  • This alliteration links two words that are often placed in opposition - 'heart' and 'head'. When these two words appear together, it is usually to indicate someone's struggle between following their natural feelings (the 'heart') or doing the rational, sensible thing (the 'head').
  • 'Heartful' suggests speaker is saddened by news reports, and she compares this to his physical work - digging, breaking ice, clearing snow. She wonders if his life is 'more real' because of his connection with the land, but he would not think so and the question is not answered.