Tagged: Emily Dickinson
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December 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm #11964Anonymous
Can anyone help with writing an essay that compares and contrasts the poems of Dickinson, preferably the following poems-Hope a thing of feathers, I heard a Fly buzz when i died, I felt a Funeral in my Brain,I taste a liquor never brewed and After great pain a Formal feeling comes.
December 13, 2010 at 8:13 pm #67101Anonymous
The poetry of Emily Dickenson
Emily Dickenson, the “belle of Amherst”, she is one of the most highly regarded poets ever to write. In America, perhaps only Robert frost is her equal in legend and in the degree of influence. Dickenson, the famous recluse dressed in white, secretly produced an enormous canon of poetry while locked in her room and refusing visitor after visitor. She dropped out of popular society and from the age of thirty and she choose to live the rest of her life as a recluse in her father’s house communicating with the world with letters. Many scholars and novelists have commented on her work;
“The starving thirsty “I” of Emily Dickenson’s poetry expresses its bitterness toward god, towards nature, and toward human society through the language of withdrawal” (Vivian R.Pollak)
Scholars in the past hundred years are continually examining her many features and comparing and contrasting the many themes and issues she raises in her rich poetry. She is neither a nature poet nor a philosophical writer or romantic but more so she is a genre onto herself. Her good education has put her in a position where she was interested in nature while also having a scientific eye. She explores death and the mild hope she has of the afterlife. We will now explore some of the themes of Emily Dickenson.
Dickenson throughout her life spent a great amount of time exploring the relationship with the Judea- Christian god. Many poems describe a protracted rebellion against the god whom she seemed scornful and indifferent to human suffering. In a sense she was a religious poet. But unlike other religious poets Dickenson “challenged god’s dominion throughout her life, refusing to submit to his divine will at the cost of herself”. In the poem I felt a funeral in my brain we see how she confronts the ideas of the afterlife. Some critics believe that the plunge as the coffins descent into the grave and the “here” of stanza 4 as death. This plunge may be understood as the plunge into the beyond that yields a deeper knowledge of what exists after death. Yet however in the line “and finished knowing-then-“we are confronted with the idea that she now knows what is beyond death.
Another proem that deals with the theme of death and her disillusionment with god is One of Dickinson’s most famous poems, “I heard a Fly buzz” strikingly describes the mental distraction posed by irrelevant details at even the most crucial moments—even at the moment of death. The poem then becomes even weirder and more macabre by transforming the tiny, normally disregarded fly into the figure of death itself, as the fly’s wing cuts the speaker off from the light until she cannot “see to see.” But the fly does not grow in power or stature; its final severing act is performed “With Blue—uncertain stumbling Buzz—.” This poem is also remarkable for its detailed of a deathbed scene—the dying person’s loved ones steeling themselves for the end, the dying woman signing away in her will “What portion of me be / Assignable”. And then the windows failed – and then I could not see to see” this final line suggest the figure is robbed of sight and understanding, a finality emphasised by the rhyme of “me” and “see. Is this a message of the dead and that it is truly just darkness and emptiness? The poem effectively deals with the writer’s direct lack of faith in god and the afterlife. In another instance of implicit criticism, Dickenson portrays god as a murderous hunter of man in “my life had stood – a loaded gun”. In which death goes about gleefully executing people for god. This poem and many others are part of Dickenson’s portrayal of god as aloof, cruel, invasive, and vindictive. This type of anger and malevolence towards god may be contributed to the upbringing she had in a Calvinist society and how it affected her when she was called upon to profess her faith in boarding school. However Dickenson models many of her poems on protestant hymnal meter. Many of her poems share their title with the first line this is identical to how protestant hymns are arranged in hymn books.
In her work, Dickenson asserts the importance of the self, a theme closely related to Dickinson’s frustration at god. As Dickenson understood it, the mere act of speaking or writing is an affirmation of the will, it is the call to express herself to others. For Emily, the self is understanding of identity according to the way it systematizes its perceptions of the world, forms its goals and values, and comes to judgements regarding what it perceives. In the poem “I could bring you jewels had i a mind to” Emily is expressing herself not on a figurative scale but as flirtatious women in tune with her sexuality. This is instead of being deep and philosophical is striking notes of confidence and playfulness, a note that is sustained to the very end of the poem. This poem is also important because it focuses not just on an event but more on a relationship Emily has for another person. In the opening stanza, the speaker i.e. Dickenson considers all the gifts she will offer her beloved, the “you” in the poem. She refers in the poem to a number of exotic gifts “berries of the Bahamas, emerald swing and this topaz”. But it is her that is the gift she wants to give. Her mind, most importantly. Dickenson wants to assert herself in the distinction between her mind and her body even though they are unable to survive without each other. In its playful, assured way, the poem establishes that the true value of gifts and the true nature of her being cannot be measured in material terms.
Although the poet spent much her time in Amherst, she was quite in tune with the modern world through extensive correspondence by letters. Dickenson began to see language and the word, which were formerly part of gods domain, as the province of a poet. Her duty as a poet is to recreate through words, a sense of a world as a place in which objects have almost ghostly properties if not mythical. Dickenson’s poems often link abstract things to physical things in an attempt to create a design in her world. This act is apparent in her poems such as “hope is the thing with feathers”. In this poem Dickenson employs metaphors that assign physical qualities to the abstract feeling of “hope” in order to flesh out the nature of the word and what it means to her.
For Dickenson there was an awful lot of power in the ability to see. She attributed allot to this sense as she viewed it as the authority to associate with the world around her in meaningful ways. In this sense, sight becomes an important expression, and consequently the speakers in her poems value it highly. The horror that the speaker in the poem “I heard a fly buzz when I died” experiences is attributed to her loss of eyesight in the moments leading up to her death. The final utterance, “I could not see to see” points very effectively to just how much emphasis Emily Dickenson placed upon her desire to see. In this poem however we also see her correlation between sight and self show that the end of one perhaps blindness would lead to her death.
Dickenson had a fascination with nature and through her formidable education expertly discusses and contrast her love with nature and her difficulty in connecting with religion. This is a perfect example of Emily Dickinson’s move away from Calvinist tradition and towards Transanedentilism. The movement was growing stronger and stronger in the states but would eventually fizzle out. Its key themes were the connection between god and nature; this aspect can be seen with two poems i have studied. In this poem, a bird came down the walk the simple experience of watching a bird hop down a path allows her to exhibit her extraordinary poetic powers of observation and description. Dickinson keenly depicts the bird as it eats a worm, pecks at the grass, hops by a beetle, and glances around fearfully. As a natural creature frightened by the speaker into flying away, the bird becomes an emblem for the quick, lively, ungraspable wild essence that distances nature from the human beings who desire to appropriate or tame it. But the most remarkable feature of this poem is the imagery of its final stanza, in which Dickinson provides one of the most breath-taking descriptions of flying in all of poetry. Simply by offering two quick comparisons of flight and by using aquatic motion (rowing and swimming), she evokes the delicacy and fluidity of moving through air. The image of butterflies leaping “off Banks of Noon,” splashlessly swimming though the sky is one of the most memorable in all Dickinson’s writing in my opinion. The second poem associated with the poets love for nature is “hope is a thing with feathers. Like almost all of Dickinson’s poems the form is iambic trimeter that often expands to include a fourth stress at the end of the line (as in “And sings the tune without the words—”). Like almost all of her poems, it modifies and breaks up the rhythmic flow with long dashes indicating breaks and pauses (“And never stops—at all—”). The stanzas, as in most of Dickinson’s lyrics, rhyme loosely in an ABCB scheme. This simple, metaphorical description of hope as a bird singing in the soul is another example of Dickinson’s homiletic style, derived from Psalms and religious hymns. Dickinson introduces her metaphor in the first two lines (“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers— / That perches in the soul—”), then develops it throughout the poem by telling what the bird does, how it reacts to hardship (it is unabashed in the storm), where it can be found (everywhere, from “chilliest land” to “strangest Sea”), and what it asks for itself (nothing, not even a single crumb). Neither her language nor her themes here are as complicated and explosive as they would become in her more mature work. Still, we find a few of the verbal shocks that so characterize Dickinson’s mature style: the use of “abash,” for instance, to describe the storm’s potential effect on the bird, wrenches the reader back to the reality behind the pretty metaphor; while a singing bird cannot exactly be “abashed,” the word describes the effect of the storm—or a more general hardship—upon the speaker’s hopes
The poetry of Emily Dickenson is not without its flaws but Emily Dickenson does more for us than other poets of the time. She as a woman in Amherst is a second class citizens. But through her writings she challenges not just the world she lives in but about the religious fundamentalism that’s occurring at the time she takes up another religion and she takes on the idea of life after death or the lack thereof. She approaches nature poetry and also expresses not just herself but more so her sexuality on discussing her love of another, some poems are flirtatious and playful as if aimed at her secret lover. Furthermore Emily Dickenson has made an incredible addition to the literary world and in my opinion far exceeds frost or Ezra pound. She as a woman set herself apart and is a symbol for non conformity to not just religion but to the mechanics of the world in which she lived. She is truly one on the best poets upon the leaving cert course.
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