Author Topic: Emily Dickinson  (Read 715 times)

Howj Begg

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Emily Dickinson
« on: November 30, 2018, 02:31:41 AM »
Is a sublime poet that it's taken me decades to get round to.

Her nature poems seem to me like something we need more than ever, to understand the sacrality of interconnectedness, and strange varieties of innocence that humans need as reminders.

The spider holds a Silver Ball
In unperceived Hands--
And dancing softly to Himself
His Yarn of Pearl--unwinds--

He plies from Nought to Nought--
In unsubstantial Trade--
Supplants our Tapestries with His--
In half the period--

An Hour to rear supreme
His Continents of Light--
Then dangle from the Housewife's Broom--
His Boundaries--forgot--

The trees like Tassels – hit – and swung –

There seemed to rise a Tune

From Miniature Creatures

Accompanying the Sun -

Far Psalteries of Summer –

Enamoring the Ear

They never yet did satisfy –

Remotest – when most fair


The Sun shone whole at intervals –

The Half – then utter hid –

As if himself were optional

And had Estates of Cloud


Sufficient to enfold Him

Eternally from view –

Except it were a whim of His

To let the Orchards grow –


A Bird sat careless on the fence –

One gossipped in the Lane

On silver matters charmed a Snake

Just winding round a Stone –


Bright Flowers slit a Calyx

And soared upon a Stem

Like Hindered Flags – Sweet hoisted –

With Spices – in the hem –

’Twas more – I cannot mention –

How mean - to those that see –

Vandyke’s Delineation

Of Nature’s - Summer Day!

And those aren't close to being her profoundest work. Some of her poems are downright goth in their nihilistic intensity, their bitter strength and world -and-time-spanning abstract ideas. She is constantly surprising, thoguh her Victorian religiosity, always at least halfd-sinceere, is one running commentary on everything. But she is constantly investigating it, twisitng it and underminging it in subtle ways for herself. Doubting God's existence, doubting the historicity of religion:

To lose One's faith — surpass
The loss of an Estate —
Because Estates can be
Replenished — faith cannot —

Inherited with Life —
Belief — but once — can be —
Annihilate a single clause —
And Being's — Beggary —

Questioning the practical vs the 'truth' value of her received Calvinist Christianity.
However, I don't know enough about her life, just working my way through the poems atm.

Tell me your feelings about Emily Dickinson. What do you know about her?*

And is that A Quiet Heart,  genuinely good? I've heard good things but I don't want it to ruin my enjoyment of the poetry yet, if it's bad.

*Simon and Garfunkel references are accepted at this point, if so wished.

« Last Edit: November 30, 2018, 02:54:26 AM by Howj Begg »


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Re: Emily Dickinson
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2018, 02:43:22 AM »
deffo one of my favourite english-speaker poets (with Hopkins and Yeats). I don't have much more to say, sometimes commentaries tend to spoil the enjoyment of a work of art (especially for poetry).

Our journey had advanced ;
Our feet were almost come
To that odd fork in Being's road,
Eternity by term.

Our pace took sudden awe,
Our feet reluctant led.
Before were cities, but between,
The forest of the dead

Retreat was out of hope, –
Behind, a sealed route,
Eternity's white flag before,
And God at every gate.

Howj Begg

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Re: Emily Dickinson
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2018, 03:10:04 AM »
Our journey had advanced

Emily the mystic* - and yet it's also - a precis of the screenplay - of a horror film. To her, these cosmic inner - and moral journeys - allegorised in Biblical/mythological terms - are substantially horrifying. God is a series of malevolent guards at Eternity's gates, like the those Ram-bodied Assyrian kings on giant doors (first room of the British Museum, most amazing room in the world). Awe-ful horror, indulged in by someone who passionately wished to believe  that God was good and loving.

Yes - I am using dashes - in tribute.

*She was a reader of transcendentalism, Emerson etc, and I think partly felt herself to be one?


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Re: Emily Dickinson
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2018, 08:17:31 PM »
John Adams sets two of her poems in Harmonium, which I absolutely love. They're: I Could Not Stop For Death and Wild Nights. The other setting is a fantastic poem of John Donne: Negative Love.

If you haven't heard it before, you're in for quite a whirlwind.


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Re: Emily Dickinson
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2018, 09:54:41 AM »
I came here to mention Wild Nights, but see it's already been brought up.

Emily Dickinson is indeed a sublime and unique poet. There's something so urgent about the way she writes. I read her work most days; actually I'm using them as part of my stroke recovery, as they're mostly short and make good memory tasks, so I'm learning them by heart week on week.

Anyway, my favourite at the moment is Wild Nights - such a beautiful, highly sexual poem, really groundbreaking for the time she was writing. A woman writing so passionately and - well, wildly - about sex...Most of her poems were for her own private pleasure, published posthumously.

Interestingly, it was first believed that her signature dashes and capitalisations were as a result of poor grammar, and they were taken out of the first prints of her work. Over time people realised that she had intended them to be there and they were restored.

Re: Emily Dickinson
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2018, 05:12:46 PM »
Twenty years ago I participated in a group for people who experienced feelings of chronic depersonalisation, and they at one point adopted Emily Dickinson as a 'patron saint', which I felt was something of a projection and a misappropriation. Unfortunately I can't remember which poems they quoted to justify this idea, but this may have been one:

There is a pain - so utter -
It swallows substance up -
Then covers the Abyss with Trance -
So Memory can step
Around - across - upon it -
As One within a Swoon -
Goes safely - where an open eye -
Would drop Him - Bone by Bone.