Archive for the ‘Emily Dickinson’ Category

She dealt her pretty words like Blades –
How glittering they shone –
And every One unbared a Nerve
Or wantoned with a Bone –

She never dreamed – she hurt –
That – is not Steel’s Affair –
A vulgar grimace in the Flesh –
How ill the Creatures bear –

To ache is human – not polite –
The Film upon the eye
Mortality’s old Custom –
Just locking up – to Die.

Emily Dickinson challenges me.  Every poem is so utterly itself, capturing perfectly some small facet of human life.  They stick with me long after I have put the text down.  This poem is a good example of that.  I have met women like this sometimes, who pride themselves on speaking their mean version of the truth with no pity for those they slice with their words.  Dickinson’s turn of phrase is gorgeously precise – “wantoned with a bone” almost makes me shudder.

And yet, at the same time, I never know completely what to make of them.  There is a part of her thought that remains obscure to me.  I start thinking about the hyphens, almost operating as line breaks within lines, and they confuse me.  They emphasize certain words so precisely, and yet sometimes I am not sure why they are there.  Yet there is a rightness to them.  Each word and punctuation mark should be there, even if I do not quite understand why.

Dickinson is also one of those poets whose work cannot be seperated from her life.  The poems are so different, at least in part, because she was so different.  It would be easy to read her life as a cautionary tale on the cost of genius, particularly for women.  What does it cost a person to be truly Other, to refuse to forsake that Otherness, to insist on being most truly Yourself no matter what?  Would you abandon relationships for the sake of your genius?  How about hiding in an upstairs room for the rest of your life?  Is the poetry worth it?  These are questions I can’t answer.


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