Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Emily Dickinson

I've always felt uncomfortable -- even embarrassed -- at not having read any Emily Dickinson. After all, I went to school in her native Amherst, and toured the Dickinson Homestead as a student. But reading her poetry is something I'd not done: until now. 

Over the past few months, I've tried to read a few of her poems each day. Today, I finished the Wordsworth collection, which includes selected poems focused on nature, mortality, love, and life.  

As I said to Frank earlier this winter, I could not tell you whether Dickinson was a happy person or sad, whether she was content with her station or whether she yearned for more. I did, though, find her poems lively and perceptive: an interesting mix of prescience and animation. But whether the poems told me anything about Dickinson herself, I really cannot say: not, of course, that this is the obligation of the poet. I mention it only because I tend, I think, to learn more about writers through novels than through poetry.

All of that said, there are some beautiful poems in this collection, full of memorable observations. I found myself refreshed after reading Dickinson's poems: as if her clarity and patience had helped to generate similar qualities in myself. For that alone, I am thankful.

I'm not a critic of poetry and so am happy to leave the last word to Dickson: 

The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy 


  1. I’m doubtful about seeking biography in fiction. As for finding Dickinson in her poems, it can be hard to avoid. Her poetry was not an abstract aesthetic exercise but an outpouring of her mind and soul. However, she never reveals all. She hides in complex labyrinths.

  2. This is helpful, R.T. I appreciate the comment.