Poetic musings on a lost hat

Analysis by Claire Orchard

Featured in Capital #70
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Moscow in Winter

By Maeve Hughes

People lean into the wind.
They are going out to where they need to be
to fill themselves so they can be
emptied again.
I once had a hat
but I abandoned it.
Poor hat, I left it but
I feel as though it left me.

Moscow in Winter was first published in Maeve’s poetry collection Horsepower (2019).

About the poet

Maeve lives in a tall house in Wellington. She has studied Fine Arts and Creative Writing. Her first publication, Horsepower, won the 2018 Story Inc Prize for poetry and was launched in October 2019. Maeve also writes reviews for Art Zone.

Why this poem?

I like this poem for the way it has me paying attention to the paradox that is my own damn self. What’s Moscow like in winter? Well, windy for a start, but the poem does not divulge more than this, and the speaker’s geographical location feels more or less irrelevant. It’s the human condition being considered here, not the specifics of life in the Russian capital. And the human condition means that, wherever we may be, we encounter – perhaps even require? – opposition, something to “lean into”, those moments that remind us we’re alive. People go “out to where they need to be / to fill themselves so they can be” – can exist – but, in this process, they’ll be emptied again. Today this apparent contradiction reminds me of one of my own: the way, from time to time, I struggle to reconcile my need for contact with others with my craving for solitude. The speaker’s ruminations about their lost hat give a concrete example of the way we human beings have honed the fine art of internal contradiction. The speaker abandoned that hat. They know that – “Poor hat” is not to blame, yet still they feel as if it had deserted them. Unreasonable, but there it is. Human nature is not reasonable.     

Why read it?

Because this poem, like a lot of Maeve’s work, possesses the power to morph, to show different things to different people, even different things to the same people, on different days. Wherever you may be, this poem will meet you there. 

Best moments to break out this poem

This is my go-to poem for those Sunday evenings when the thought of having to go back out into the world on Monday morning is decidedly underwhelming. It is also an ideal poem for those moments when you find yourself fretting over something misplaced that you still regret losing. Last year’s umbrella is a big one for me (it was a very fine umbrella) but it could as easily be a lost friendship, or a lost love, out there somewhere, languishing forlornly right where you left it.

More like this

Treat yourself to your own copy of Horsepower from Unity Books. And if this leaves you hankering for more well-formed short verse, Short Poems of New Zealand, edited by Jenny Bornholdt, is another gem.  


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