Quintessential Woman Poet Emily Dickinson

I first came across Emily Dickinson in the Trebizon series of boarding school books by British writer Anne Digby. I picked up a book from the series at my childhood library, and in that the heroine Rebecca writes a poem inspired by Emily Dickinson. Here’s Dickinson’s poem –

There’s a Certain Slant of Light (320)

There’s a certain Slant of light,

Winter Afternoons –

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –

We can find no scar,

But internal difference –

Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –

‘Tis the seal Despair –

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –

Shadows – hold their breath –

When it goes, ’tis like the Distance

On the look of Death –

Dickinson’s motto was “tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” Here’s her poem on that –

Tell All the Truth but Tell It Slant (1263)

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

Known for her use of em dashes, Dickinson’s short poems are power packed with unusual imagery. The Apple TV series, Dickinson, was a modern interpretation of her life, and I enjoyed it.

Here’s a delightful lyric of hers –

I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed (214)

I taste a liquor never brewed – 
From Tankards scooped in Pearl – 
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of air – am I – 
And Debauchee of Dew – 
Reeling – thro’ endless summer days – 
From inns of molten Blue – 

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door – 
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” – 
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats – 
And Saints – to windows run – 
To see the little Tippler
Leaning against the – Sun!

Here’s her most famous one –

Hope Is the Thing with Feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

Here’s her ars poetica –

They Shut Me up in Prose (445)

They shut me up in Prose –

As when a little Girl

They put me in the Closet –

Because they liked me “still”   –

Still! Could themself have peeped –

And seen my Brain – go round –

They might as wise have lodged a Bird

For Treason – in the Pound –

Himself has but to will

And easy as a Star

Look down opon Captivity –

And laugh – No more have I –

Dickinson was ahead of the nineteenth century, and is one of my inspirations as I too love writing short poems.

This post is a part of #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge 2023.

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2 Responses

  1. I have read few of Dickinson’s work. Really impressive 👏😁
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  2. I came late to my love of Dickinson, but now I really see her brilliance. I certainly enjoyed your choice of her works to share.

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