Emily Dickinson

My east-coast high-school English literature poetry focused almost entirely on dead white British men. The exceptions, that I remember, are E. Pauline Johnson & Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886.) I have no recollection of what Johnson poems I was forced to parse or whatever it was we were supposed to do with them – explain somehow in a way that lined up with the teacher’s understanding, as opposed to our actual feeling about the poetry.

The one of Dickinson’s I remember starts “Hope” is the thing with feathers – but it is her life that I remember even more clearly – a recluse for much of her life who refused to see people – who stored her poems in a drawer. That fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime.

 

She wrote unlike any poet of her time – short lines, short poems, random Capitals – the Use of the dash – other than the Random capitals – her verse had the appearance of modern verse. Her use of images was/is very contemporary. The ‘meanings’ were easy enough to figure out as well. Which made them perfect for the limited attention span of teenagers. I can’t say that I liked her then but she was more approachable on the age than Shelly or Wordsworth.

I was fascinated by her decision for solitude. There was also a sort of mystery about her life – only one known photo of her exists. I have the complete poetry unedited. As well as “My Wars Are Laid Away In Books” a biography by Alfred Habegger – which is well worth reading.

Looking at her now as an influence she showed me the power of the simple image, she used direct language as well – not the endlessly florid style of Byron. She didn’t rely on classical references or biblical contexts to convey her thoughts. Plus she clearly wrote for the joy of writing not for the acclaim of publication.

That perhaps has been what inspires me most about her. As much as I’d enjoy being published I’m also quite content to write without that as my sub or even sur text. Instead of tucking my writing away in a drawer I hide it here on my blog. 

Lost Kiss

grief will become

a door you aren’t afraid to open

a shirt you can finally throw away

an aftershave you can’t stand on anyone else

a book you have no one to talk to about

a lawn you have to mow

a sunrise never seen before

an echo in someone else’s laugh

a song that is always him kissing you

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