Featured Poet: Emily Dickinson

This isn’t technically a Women Writers Wednesday review, but I have to give a shout-out today, on a Wednesday, on Earth Day, to Emily Dickinson. She has been known to many as one of the greatest American poets, or as “The Belle of Amherst,” or as “that crazy lady in the white dress locked in her house all her life.” (True story, I knew someone who referred to her like that, not out of abject disrespect so much as out of frustrated curiosity.)

No matter what you call her, she was and remains a force majeure of American letters. The more I read of her work throughout my life, the better I can appreciate the depth of her intellectual and poetic gifts.

Today I came across one of her poems I had not seen before. Since it’s Earth Day, I wanted to feature a poem about nature, and this seemed like a good one to include. It’s number as 668 in the source I encountered (PoemHunter.com).

 

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668

 

“Nature” is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

 

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What can I tell you about Emily Dickinson that you don’t probably already know? How about this: one of my favorite National Poetry Month posters ever is from 2005 — incidentally, the month my daughter was born — and was designed by Chip Kidd. It features Emily Dickinson’s dress on a black background and a marvelous quote from her letters. “Nature is a haunted house — but Art — is a house that tries to be haunted.”

 

Emily Dickinson NPM 2005

 

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Featured Poet: Janice D. Soderling

You know what I love best about tonight’s poem? It reminds me of Emily Dickinson, someone whose work I admire not just because of its complexity, but also because the woman who wrote it led such an intellectually rich but societally challenged life.

What does this poem make you think of? For me, it calls to mind “A narrow fellow in the grass” and “Eden is that old-fashioned House.” It’s rhyming done well, modern and brief, serene yet slightly punchy. Does this sound like a contradiction? It does to me, but still, it’s how I feel about it. And in my head, in my gut, it makes sense.

 

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Quiet Things

Let the poem be a still thing. –W.S. Graham

Like the fall of one bright feather
from the eagle’s taloned clutch.
Down it drifts in pretty weather,
troubling no ear overmuch.

Or like the rushing stream gone dry.
Or like the netted butterfly.
Or like the slither of small snakes.
Or like a heart that slowly breaks.

 

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Janice D. Soderling has published poetry, fiction and translations at Mezzo Cammin, Rattle, The Rotary Dial, Light, Think, Alabama Literary Review, Hobart, Per Contra, Glimmer Train, Evansville Review and way over a hundred other print and online journals. She is assistant fiction editor at Able Muse. Janice hails from the United States but lives in Sweden.

Featured Poet: Emily Dickinson

So, it was my plan to feature only poets I know personally this whole month, which was going to be fun and all, but as I was grading a stack of tests this week, I realized that in one class where I’d offered the students the chance to write about a Florence + the Machine song versus an Emily Dickinson poem, only one person chose dear Emily. Now, granted, that song was awesome and did in fact dovetail nicely with the unit we had been studying, and the poem was more challenging and required more thoughtful analysis — but it was awesome and dovetailed nicely, too.

Anyway, I’ve decided to feature this poem tonight because it’s one of my favorites by Emily Dickinson. I don’t think I need to put a bio for her, do I?

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My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun (754 or 764)

 

My Life had stood — a Loaded Gun —
In Corners — till a Day
The Owner passed — identified —
And carried Me away —

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods —
And now We hunt the Doe —
And every time I speak for Him
The Mountains straight reply —

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow —
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through —

And when at Night — Our good Day done —
I guard My Master’s Head —
‘Tis better than the Eider-Duck’s
Deep Pillow — to have shared —

To foe of His — I’m deadly foe —
None stir the second time —
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye —
Or an emphatic Thumb —

Though I than He — may longer live
He longer must — than I —
For I have but the power to kill,
Without — the power to die —