Emily Dickinson

I write this on the birthday of Emily Dickinson (December 10) and this morning I was looking through Visiting Emily: Poems Inspired by the Life & Work of Emily Dickinson (edited by Sheila Coghill & Thom Tammaro)  I suppose all poets share some of Emily's oddly interesting life. (During her lifetime she wrote over 1700 poems and only 10 were published - I can identify with that.) Many poets have written poetry about her or her work because we are fascinated with how our fellow writers work.

For this prompt about Emily, you might write in her style, or begin with one of her epigrams or take a virtual visit to her homestead in Amherst or write a poem through her eyes ("my eyes, like the sherry in the glass that the guest leaves")

As a sample look at "EMILY DICKINSON  LEAVES A MESSAGE TO THE WORLD, NOW THAT HER HOMESTEAD IN AMHERST HAS AN ANSWERING MACHINE" a poem by X.J. Kennedy (from Dark Horses) and you can start your Emily review with the 2 poems below. 

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--

It's all I have to bring to-day,
This, and my heart beside,
This, and my heart, and all the fields,
And all the meadows wide.
Be sure you count, should I forget,--
Some one the sum could tell,--
This, and my heart, and all the bees
Which in the clover dwell.



Emily Dickinson poems free at Bartleby.com

For children: The Mouse of Amherst 
is a fanciful introduction to Emily Dickinson 
for young readers 

The Body and the Soul
Soul, wilt thou toss again?  Emily Dickinson

It is the Being in the thing
     That brings me to my knees –
It travels in the body’s guise –
     And more than plainly sees.

And when I held you in my arms –
     Your skin like polished jade –
It was for Pleasure's sake I cried,
     And Solitude unmade.

Bear witness to the body’s heart –
     Its piety undone
By all the tools that Time has plied
     In its sequestered run.

There is a ribbon in the blood –
     A subtext to the cell –
It winds the mane that Dying rides,
     And reins the Truth we tell.

Mary DeBow

When Emily Said

When Emily said she would
hereafter pick no rose,
lest it fade or prick her-
she turned from the path

whose edges are flowered
all summer below her window,
and stopped waiting for the mail.

The heart is the only workman
we cannot excuse-
painting emotions in white
watercolor wash on white paper –

using dew from the grass,
a blade as a brush,
the window glass prism for colors.

Faith, like the sailor who cannot see
the North but knows the Needle can-
stands beside her this winter day
and touches a cross to her forehead.

His touch is warm but dry.
Gratitude is the timid wealth
of those who have nothing.

Emily, we must be careful what we say.
A thought, a letter, a poem-
words gathered day by day,
pressed in pages or hung from a rafter
in a dried bouquet, they stay.
Find Peace in a pale yellow rose,
preserved beside a moss-covered name.

Ken Ronkowitz

A Certain Slant of Light Winter Afternoons
How many times I've sat and gazed
at textiles I have made;
at pictures pulled out from the shade
of thought, and painted - even glazed

to save their life. That "certain slant
of light" that brought my hand
to brush or loom I can’t
recall, but know I must remand

its memory to art, which snares
meandering sight to where
it can’t escape. I have to care
enough for passing light that bears

such truth - enough to capture it
to hold for those with slower sight
who close their eyes to too much bright
on "Winter Afternoons" to rapture it.

Catherine M. LeGault

Remembering Emily

In Younger days, I see your eyes,
I have shed so many tears.
The trees are bare, and I can't bare
to see you all these years.

But winters come and go,
I too have grown cold.
I wish, I could be with you.
But alas our time is old.

What can I do to bring you back.
To the person I once knew.
To see the smile, I always saw.
But now is gone, and has withered like the morning dew.

So Emily, I see through your eyes.
A Love that I once had.
So here my poem lies.
Line by line, of seasons, of when I die.
But one day I too will be like winters frost.
For my words have paid the cost.
Buried, forgotten, and remembered only  through my poetry.
But alas I have you to thank, my sweet dear Emily.

Raul Robert Maldonado

Packed asphalt vein—
Kerfs-marked earth
Blacker than Mississippi bottom
Harrowed in its cradle,

Refusing heaven's rain—
What is its true worth?
Dressed in winter's icy cotton
The lid rejects the ladle

And demons dance on the skinny plain.
In this, the land of our birth,
All Truth is soon forgotten—
Like the Mohegan's deer-hide rattle.

Steven Bizel

Rereading Dickinson

Pale, yellowed paperback in a basement box
that I had not read since it was required.
You had no life but this, nor action new,
Except through this extent, the realm of you.
I pitied you. I didn't want to be you
or Plath, or Sexton or any of that table sitting off
in the corner where the light was dim,
the table full of empty glasses, cigarette butts,
poems being passed around and read.
I liked you best because you didn't nod at each verse
or smile, didn't hug your tablemates, fanned the smoke
away, drank ice water in tiny sips. And looked over
at me sitting at the bar alone. Maybe you thought
Wild nights! Wild nights! Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be Our luxury!
But you didn't come over or say a word
and I could not and at the end of the night
I went back out into the world with my pen.
Each life converges to some centre
Ungained, it may be, by a life’s low venture,
But then, Eternity enables the endeavoring Again.

Pamela Milne


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