Emily Dickinson

29 Jan

“Any Emily Dickinson poem can be sung to the tune of The Yellow Rose of Texas,” is something I learned from Babylon 5 (season 5, “The Day of the Dead” episode, by Neil Gaiman). I’ve found, since then, that it’s true with almost all of her poems, although sometimes it takes an attempt or two to make the poem fit.

I adore Emily Dickinson. I adore not only her poetry, but the puzzling and story-like quality of her life (the fact that she wrote volumes and volumes of beautiful poetry, which she kept quietly on her shelves. In her life, she only published a handful of times, and then contentedly created brilliant art just for herself. That’s gorgeous).

Other poets, I can sometimes recognize by the poem, without being told who it is. Some of them are easy. You never have much of a doubt when you’re reading e.e. cummings, obviously. Robert Frost, I get right maybe seven out of ten times. But Emily Dickinson, I almost always get right. there’s a quality to the tone of her writing, and the rhythm, and frequently the subject matter, that says “Emily Dickinson” to me.

This is all brought on by having just seen a tattoo, over at, where they post literary tattoos. It was two lines of a poem, on someone’s shoulder. I read it and thought “Emily Dickinson…” and scrolled down, discovered I was right.

I like poetry. I adore poetry. I like how it unpacks. I get profoundly irritated when people who have zero interest in poetry make the assumption that it’s boring and easy, and then write maudlin, lousy poems. It’s the same irritation that gets to me with people who want to be writers (or sit around on the internet harraumphing about how they ARE writers), but who never read and take no pleasure in the language. Gimme a break.

This is all by way of a crusty wave good morning, before I head off to work on an article that may never end, and a short story I don’t have an ending to. (I don’t mind. One will turn up.)

It is appallingly cold outside. but the sun is out and reflecting off the whole surface of the world, which is covered in a single sheet of ice, and the sky has the crystal-clear quality of a cold winter’s morning. I’m inside with hot tea and a sweater. So it’s awfully hard to hate the weather today. At least until someone makes me go out into it.

that’s it. I’m off to work.

(p.s., I know, lots of e-mails still not sent…and not today, because I accidentally signed out of my e-mail, and therefore can’t be back in until My Wife gets home and signs me in. Inconvenient, I know. On the other hand, by the time she gets home, maybe I’ll have got a big swath of writing done and be a more relaxed, affable person you might want to receive an e-mail from. Hey-o.)

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Posted by on January 29, 2010 in Uncategorized


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