Monday, October 5, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry: Emily Dickinson edition

I'm not gonna lie: Emily D. can be a real downer. Check out these choice first lines of her poems:

I am alive I guess
I am ashamed - I hide

I can wade grief

I cannot live with you
I cautious scanned my little life
I do not care - why should I care

I held it so tight that I lost it

I like a look of agony

I lived on dread

You get the idea.
Cheer up, Em! Granted, it is a gross simplification to say all her poems are depressing. But a lot of them, tonally at least, are melancholy. According to most accounts, she was a lonely odd lady. Yet she was undeniably prolific: She wrote just under 1,800 poems, only ten of which were published in her lifetime. And her influence on contemporary women poets like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich (just to name a few) is immeasurable. She broke a lot of new ground in terms of syntax and imagery, and as a Romantic, she infiltrated what was previously an all-boys club (Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth et al.).

The poem I'm including here has to do with autumn, which is in full swing here in New England. Like many of Dickinson's poems, reading it aloud will enhance your appreciation and understanding of it.

The name - of it - is "Autumn"-
The hue - of it - is Blood -

An Artery - upon the Hill -

A Vein - along the Road -

Great Globules - in the Alleys -

And Oh, the Shower of Stain -

When Winds - upset the Basin -

And spill the Scarlet Rain -

It sprinkles Bonnets - far below -

It gathers ruddy Pools -

Then - eddies like a Rose - away -
Upon Vermillion Wheels -

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