Emily dickinsons poetry

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emily dickinsons poetry
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EMILY DICKINSON:
DEATH TAKES LIFE IN POETRY
Emily Dickinson is regarded as one of the greatest American poets that
have ever existed.(Benfey 5) The unique qualities of her brief, but
emotional, poems were so uncommon that they made her peerless in a sense that
her writing could not be compared to. Her diverse poetic character could be
directly connected to her tragic and unusual life. The poems that she wrote were
often about death and things of that nature, and can be related to her
distressed existence. Dickinsons forthright examination of her philosophical
and religious skepticism, her unorthodox attitude toward her sex and calling,
and her distinctive stylecharacterized by elliptical compressed expression,
striking imagery and innovative poetic structurehave earned widespread
acclaim, and her poems have become some of the best loved in American
literature.


Although only seven of Dickinsons poems were published during her lifetime
and her work drew harsh criticism when it first appeared, many of her short
lyrics on the subjects of nature, love, death, and immortality are now
considered among the most emotionally and intellectually profound in the English
language.


Biographers generally agree that, Emily Dickinson experienced an emotional
crisis of an undetermined nature in the early 1860s.(Cameron 26) Dickinsons
antisocial behavior became excessive following 1869. Her refusal to leave her
home or to meet visitors, her gnomic sayings, and her habit of always wearing a
white dress earned her a reputation of eccentricity among her neighbors.(Cameron
29) Her intellectual and social isolation further increased when her father died
suddenly in 1874 and he was left to care for her invalid mother. The death of
her mother in 1882 followed two years later by the death of Judge Otis P. Lord,
a close family friend and her most satisfying romantic attachment, contributed
to what Dickinson described as an attack of nerves.(Cameron 29)
Emily Dickinsons distressed state of mind is believed to have inspired her
to write more abundantly: in 1862 alone she is thought to have composed over 300
poems.


Her absorption in the world of feeling found some relief in associations
with nature; yet although she loved nature and wrote many nature lyrics, her
interpretations are always more or less swayed by her own state of being.(Benfey
22) The quality of her writing is profoundly stirring, because it betrays,
not the intellectual pioneer, but the acutely observant woman, whose capacity
for feeling was profound.(Bennet 61)
All seven of the poems published during her lifetime were published
anonymously and some were done without consent. The editors of the
periodicals in which her lyrics appeared made significant alterations to them in
attempt to regularize the meter and grammar, consequently discouraging Dickinson
from seeking further publication.(Fuller 17)
When her poetry was first published in a complete unedited edition after her
death, Emily was acknowledged as a poet who was truly ahead of her time.

However, there is no doubt that critics are justified in complaining that, Her
work was often cryptic in thought and unmelodious in expression.(Bennet 64)
Today, an increasing number of studies from diverse critical viewpoints are
devoted to her life and works, thus securing Dickinsons status as a major
poet.


Theres a certain slant of light is a poem in which seasonal change
becomes a symbol of inner change. The relationship of inner and outer change is
contrasted. It begins with a moment of arrest that signals the nature and
meaning of winter. It tells that summer passed but insists that the passing
occurred so slowly that it did not seem like the betrayal that it really was.(Bloom
122) The comparison to the slow fading of grief also implies a failure of
awareness on the speakers part. The second and third lines begin a
description of a transitional period, and their claim that the speaker felt no
betrayal shows that she had to struggle against this feeling. The next eight
lines create, A personified scene of late summer or early autumn. The
distilled quiet allows time for contemplation.(Eberwein 354) The twilight
long begun suggests that the speaker is getting used to the coming season and
is aware that change was occurring before she truly noticed it. These lines
reinforce the poems initial description of a slow lapse and also convey the idea
that foreknowledge of decline is part of the human condition.(Bloom 124) The
personification of the polite but coldly determined guest, who insists on
leaving no matter how earnestly she is asked to stay, is convincing on the
realistic level. On the level of analogy, the courtesy probably corresponds
to the restrained beauty of the season, and the cold determination corresponds
to the inevitability of the years cycle.(Bloom 122) The movement from
identification with sequestered nature to nature as a departing figure
communicates the involvement of humans in the seasonal life cycle. The last
four lines shift the metaphor and relax the tension. Summer leaves by secret
means. The missing wing & keel suggest a mysterious fluiditygreater than
that of air or water. Summer escapes into the beautiful, which is a repository
of creation that promises to send more beauty into the world.(Eberwein 355)
The balanced picture of the departing guest has prepared us for this low-key
conclusion.


A number of Emily Dickinsons poems about poetry relating the poet to an
audience probably have their genesis in her own frustrations and uncertainties
about the publication of her own work. This is my letter to the World,
written about 1862, the year of Emily Dickinsons greatest productivity looks
forward to the fate of her poems after her death. The world that never wrote to
her is her whole potential audience who will not recognize her talent or
aspirations. She gives nature credit for her heart and material in a half
apologetic manner, as if she were merely the carrier of natures message.(Bloom
297) The fact that this message is committed to people who will come after her
transfers the uncertainty of her achievement to its future observers, as if they
were somehow responsible for its neglect while she was alive. The plea that
she be judged tenderly for nature’s sake combines an insistence on imitation of
nature as the basis of her art with a special plea for tenderness towards her
own fragility or sensitivity; but poetry should be judged by how well the poet
achieves his or her intention and not by the poem alone, as Emily Dickinson
surely knew.(Bloom 297) This particular poems generalization about her
isolationand its apologetic tonetends toward the sentimental, but one can
detect some desperation underneath the softness.(Bloom 298)
Her poem, Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant– immediately reminds
us of all the indirection in Emily Dickinsons poems: her condensations, vague
references, renowned puzzles, and perhaps even her slant rhymes. The idea of
artistic success lying in circuitthat is, in confusion and symbolismgoes
well with the stress on amazing sense and staggering paradoxes which we have
seen her express elsewhere.(Eberwein 171) The notion that Truth is too much
for our infirm delight is puzzling. On the very personal level for Emilys
mind, infirm delight would correspond to her fear or experience and her
preference for anticipation over fulfillment. For her, Truths surprise had to
remain in the world of imagination. However, superb surprise sounds more
delightful than frightening.(Bloom 89) Lightning indeed is a threat because
of its physical danger and its accompanying thunder is scary, but it is not
clear how dazzling truth can blind usunless it is the deepest of spiritual
truths. These lines can be simplified to mean that raw experience needs artistic
elaboration to give it depth and to enable us to contemplate it. The
contemplation theme is reasonably convincing but, The poem coheres poorly and
uses an awed and apologetic tone to cajole us into disregarding its faults.(Bloom
89)
Success is counted sweetest, Dickinsons most famous poem about
compensation is more complicated and less cheerful. It proceeds by inductive
logic to show how painful situations create knowledge and experience not
otherwise available.(Eberwein 18) The poem opens with a generalization about
people who never succeed. They treasure the idea of success more than others do.

Next, the idea is given additional physical force by the declaration that only
people in great thirst understand the nature of what they need. The use of comprehend
about a physical substance creates a metaphor for spiritual satisfaction. Having
briefly introduced people who are learning through deprivation, Emily goes onto
the longer description of a person dying on a battlefield. The word host,
referring to an armed troop, gives the scene an artificial elevation intensified
by the royal color purple. These seemingly victorious people understand the
nature of victory much less than does a person who has been denied it and lies
dying. His ear is forbidden because it must strain to hear and will soon not
hear at all.(Eberwein 19) The bursting of strains near the moment of death
emphasize the greatness of sacrifices. This is a harsh poem. It asks for
agreement with an almost cruel doctrine, although its harshness is often
overlooked because of its crisp illustrated quality and its pretended
cheerfulness. On the biographical level, it can be seen as a celebration of
the virtues and rewards of Emily Dickinsons renunciatory way of life, and as
an attack on those around her who achieved worldly success.(Bloom 158)
I heard a fly buzzwhen I died is often seen as a representative
of Emily Dickinsons style and attitude. The first line is as arresting an
opening as one could imagine. By describing the moment of her death, the speaker
lets you know she has already died. In the first stanza, the death rooms
stillness contrasts with a flys buzz that the dying person hears, and the
tension pervading the scene is likened to the pauses within a storm. The second
stanza focuses on the concerned onlookers, whose strained eyes and gathered
breath emphasize their concentration in the face of a sacred event: the arrival
of the King, who is death. In the third stanza, attention shifts back to
the speaker, who has been observing her own death with all the strength of her
remaining senses.(Eberwein 201) Her final willing of her keepsakes is a
psychological event, not something she speaks. Already growing detached from her
surroundings, she is no longer interested in material possessions; instead she
leaves behind whatever people can treasure and remember. She is getting ready to
guide herself towards death. But the buzzing fly intervenes at the last
instant; the phrase and then indicates that this is a casual event, as if
the ordinary course of life were in no way being interrupted by her death.(Bloom
365) The flys blue buzz is one of the most famous pieces of
synesthesia in Emily Dickinsons poems. This image represents the fusing of
color and sound by the dying persons diminishing senses. The uncertainty of
the flys darting motions parallels her state of mind. Flying between the
light and her, it seems to both signal the moment of death and represent the
world that she is leaving.(Bloom 365) The last two lines show the speakers
confusion of her eyes that she does not want to admit. She is both distancing
fear and revealing her detachment from life.


Painhas an element of Blank deals with a self-contained and timeless
suffering, mental rather than physical. The personification of pain makes it
identical with the sufferers life. The blank quality serves to blot out the
origin of the pain and the complications that pain brings. The second stanza
insists that such suffering is aware only of its continuation. Just as the
sufferers life has become pain, so time has become pain. Its present is an
infinity, which remains exactly like the past. This infinity, and the past,
which it reaches back to, are aware only of an indefinite future of suffering.(Eberwein
76) The description of the suffering self as being enlightened is ironic because
even though this enlightenment is the only light in the darkness, it is still
characterized by suffering.


In This World is not Conclusion, Emily Dickinson dramatizes a
conflict faith in immortality and severe doubt.(Bloom 55) Her earliest
editors omitted the last eight lines of the poem distorting its meaning and
creating a flat conclusion. The complete poem can be divided into two parts: the
first twelve lines and the final eight lines.(Eberwein 89) It starts by
emphatically affirming that there is a world beyond death which we cannot see
but which we still can understand intuitively, as we do music. Lines four
through eight introduce conflict. Immortality is attractive but puzzling. Even
wise people must pass through the riddle of death without knowing where they are
going.(Bloom 55) The ungrammatical dont combined with the elevated
diction of philosophy and sagacity suggests the irritability of a
little girl. In the next four lines, the speaker struggles to assert faith.

Her faith now appears in the form of a bird that is searching for reasons to
believe. But available evidence proves as irrelevant as twigs and as indefinite
as the directions shown by a spinning weathervane. The desperation of a bird
aimlessly looking for its way is analogous to the behavior of preachers whose
gestures and hallelujahs cannot point the way to faith.(Bloom 56) These last
two lines suggest that the narcotic which these preachers offer cannot still
their own doubts, in addition to the doubts of others.


Although the difficult This Consciousness that is aware deals with
death, it is at least equally concerned with discovery of personal identity
through the suffering that accompanies dying. The poem opens by dramatizing
the sense of mortality which people often feel when they contrast their
individual time bound lives to the world passing by them.(Eberwein 49) Word
order in the second stanza is reversed. The speaker anticipates moving
between experience and deaththat is, from experience into death by means of
the experiment of dying. Dying is an experiment because it will test us, and
allow us, and no one else, to know if our qualities are high enough to let us
survive beyond death.(Bloom 137) The last stanza offers a summary that makes
the death experience an analogy for other means of gaining self-knowledge in
life. Neither boastful nor fearful, this poem accepts the necessity of
painful testing.(Bloom 137)
Even this modest selection of Emily Dickinsons poems reveal that death is
her principal subject. In fact, because the topic is related to many of her
other concerns, it is difficult to say how many of her poems concentrate on
death, but over half of them, at least partly, and about third centrally,
feature it. Most of these poems also touch on the subject of religionalthough
she did write about religion without mentioning death. Life in a small New
England town in Dickinsons time contained a high mortality rate for young
people. As a result, there were frequent death-scenes in homes. This factor
contributed to her preoccupation with death, as well as her withdrawal from the
world, her anguish over her lack of romantic love, and her doubts about
fulfillment beyond the grave.(Cameron 114) Years ago, Emily Dickinsons
interest in death was often criticized as being morbid, but in time, Readers
tend to be impressed by her sensitive and imaginative handling of this painful
subject.(Stonum 83) Her poems concentrating on death can be divided into four
categories: those focusing on death as possible extinction, those dramatizing
the question of whether the soul survives death, those asserting a firm faith in
immortality, and those directly treating Gods concern with peoples lives
and destinies.


If nothing else had come out of our life but this strange poetry we should
feel that in the work of Emily Dickinson, America, or New England rather, had
made a distinctive addition to the literature of the world, and could not be
left out of any record of it.(Benfey 66)
works cited
Bedard, Michael. Emily. New York: Doubleday, 1992.


Benfey, Christopher. Emily Dickinson : Life of a Poet. New york: George
Braziller,
1986.


Bennet, Paula. Emily Dickinson : Woman Poet. New York: Univ of Iowa Press,
1991.


Bloom, Harold. Emily Dickinson (Modern Critical Views). New York: Chelsea
House,
1999.


Cameron, Sharon. Choosing Not Choosing : Dickinson’s Fascicles. New York:
University of Chicago Press, 1993.


Dickinson, Emily. Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. New York: Little Brown
& Co,
1976.


Eberwein, Jane Donahue. An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia. New York: Greenwood
Publishing Group, 1998.


Fuller, Jamie. The Diary of Emily Dickinson. New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1996.


Stonum, Gary Lee. The Dickinson Sublime (Wisconsin Project on American
Writers).


New York: Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1990.


Biographies