Today’s poet, much like yesterday’s could be called a formalist, mostly because of her consistent use of rhyme and meter. Both Dickinson and Wilbur were fond of slant rhyme, but Miss Emily, it seems, more so. However, she was anything but traditional for her day. Heck, she’s not that traditional for our day, now that I think of it. There is much I could say about Emily Dickinson, but it is nearing midnight of Day 18 of my 30 Day challenge, so I’ll try to cut the chatter.
Emily was a master of what she called telling it “slant.” Her choice of diction, her syntax, her crazy punctuation, and profuse capitalization of nouns all put her outside the norm for her day, even if the skeleton of what appeared on paper resembled the lyrics from a protestant hymn book. These eccentricities of style were also why her first mass published and popular poems (after her death) were edited and altered in ways that made them only a shadow of her originals. Apparently her family and her the editor felt that her poems needed repair in order to be accepted by the masses.
It was Thomas Johnson’s edition in 1955, that’s right–1955, that restored all her wonderful dashes and word choices. If you own a copy of what is called The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, throw it out, or at least do as I did; on the inside cover, write that these are not the originals, and are only kept to show what butchering was done. It’s not that I am against editing. Hell, most of my own editing is done with a knife rather than a pen, but when I’m gone… it’s time to leave my words alone, fallible, incomplete maybe, but my own. Besides I know I chose those words carefully, those line endings, those dashes, so please don’t bugger them up when I am dead. Thanks.
As for tonight’s poem, like Wilbur’s from yesterday, it also concerns the human Brain. We can talk about interpretation later, though as we’ve discussed, I am making certain interpretation decisions already in how it is presented in the video. But do you see her “Splinter” and “Swerve” as entirely negative in comparison to Wilbur’s “graceful error?” Or is there a positive possibility? Both poets, I must say, were not the least bit afraid of ambiguity. And by that I do not mean that you can make their poems mean whatever you wish, only that there are multiple possibilities of meaning, and it’s more fun not to have to pin these riddles down. Isn’t it?
Oh, and here are some great ideas from the Emily Dickinson Museum to help you while you read Miss Emily’s poems.
I should add that a certain aspect of this video was in answer to a friendly challenge by Mr. Stephen Kellog. I wasn’t sure it worked, but he seems to like it. There are other things that I might regret about this short video, but it was an experiment. Sometimes experiments bring good results and sometimes…
The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly—and true—
But let a Splinter swerve—
‘Twere easier for You—
To put a Current back—
When Floods have slit the Hills—
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves—
And trodden out the Mills—