Saturday, June 27, 2015

Terse, touching, tiring

It almost feels like you're obligated to love the poetry of Emily Dickinson if you're an American. And much of her poetry is loveable - she writes about butterflies and birds and bees so much that sometimes she reads like a nineteenth century Lisa Frank; she has an incredible, almost overpowering grasp of grief; she was an eccentric loner with strange habits and Americans fucking LOVE it when authors are a bit odd.

For all of that I can't love Dickinson, or at least not all of her work. She has many, many poems that speak to me, but she's also got a whole lot of poems that are written in praise of/glory for her God and I just can't really share in that. Many Dickinson poems are so confident of everlasting life in the bounty and glory of God that they sort of seem to undercut the poems of hers that I love, those about loss and grief and mourning. If she was so bloody confident about an afterlife where she would join those she loved and never suffer anymore then why is so much of the rest of her poetry about the sundering of loved ones?

So I'm a bit torn on I'm nobody! Who are you?, a Scholastic Press collection meant for tweens and teens. I mean don't get me wrong, there are some really goddamned good poems in this book, and I wept while reading some of them. But I also spent a lot of my time while reading making bets with myself about how many more poems I'd read before coming across another that was all about the permanence of the soul and the helplessness of mankind before God.

I guess what I'd really like to do is make my own Dickinson collection - one that's a bit more internally consistent - a selection of poems where the focus is on how hard it can be to be human, how glorious it is to see the sun and the sea and the flight of birds, but with none of the matter of fact (and less interestingly written) poems that leave human effort and emotion behind.

     - Alli

Dickinson, Emily. Ed. Edric S. Mesmer. I'm nobody! Who are you? Scholastic Press.
     New York: New York. 2002. (1886).

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