Saturday, June 19, 2010

Emily's words

There's something about an Emily Dickinson fan that, I'm sure, gets tiresome. I mean, for Pete's sake, she died 114 years ago. Who cares?

But people do. And, as is often the case, new studies keep popping up. New views. New perspectives. New stuff to piss off the pros.

This spring, a woman named Aife Murray published "Muse as Maid" a thorough study of Dickinson's servants, and showed that every time Dickinson's poetic output dropped, it was when the Dickinson house was without servants. Victorian life for women was grim - hard work from dawn to dusk - and a poet could hardly produce while sweeping, polishing, and working in the kitchen. Later, her live-in maid, Margaret Maher, not only gave her time to write, but the Irish language which Murray demonstrates informs Dickinson's poetry.

Then, there comes "Lives like Loaded Guns," which does a lot of things. But the most interesting part of Lyndall Gordon's book is her assertion - convincingly documented - that the reason Dickinson sequestered herself was because she suffered from epilepsy.

All this is cool for a Dickinson fan like myself. But, hey, let's not forget the poems:

"A narrow Fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides -
You may have met Him - did you not
His notice sudden is -

The Grass divides as with a Comb -
A spotted shaft is seen -
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on -
But never met this fellow
Attended, or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And zero at the bone - "

Or ... Check this out:

Wild Nights - Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights would be
Our luxury!

Futile the Winds -
To a heart in port -
Done with the compass -
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden-
Ah, the Sea! -
Might I but moor - Tonight -
In thee!

This stuff from 150 years ago. From a Victorian, Calvinist household! Dickinson's health, and her help, are interesting. But her poetry ...

No comments:

Post a Comment