Right smack in my poetry textbook (Sound and Sense), as I thumbed through it for an assignment, lay stretched out on the page a poem that smacked of Emily D–yet proved to be a tribute. Here goes:
“I Am in Danger – Sir – “
“Half-cracked” to Higginson, living,
afterward famous in garbled versions,
your hoard of dazzling scraps a battlefield,
now your old snood
mothballed at Harvard and
you in your variorum monument
equivocal to the end –
who are you?
Gardening the day-lily,
wiping the wine-glass stems,
your thought pulsed on behind
a forehead battered paper-thin,
you, woman, masculine
for whom the word was more than a symptom —
a condition of being.
Till the air buzzing with spoiled language
sang in your ears of Perjury
and in your half-cracked way you chose
silence for entertainment,
chose to have it out at last
on your own premises.
Edith:? She’s not here for this one. I wonder if she knew about Rich’s poem and all its delicious references to Emily Dickinson.
Me: Okay, here I plunge. First off Higginson jumped out at me. Bang. Having just posted a poem that might have referred to him I was more than aware of his name. Kind of like buying a red car and all of a sudden the world is filled with red cars on the road.
To look up: variorum (hah–I know what a snood is–do you?)
The second thing I noticed right away was the stylizing, being much like Emily’s with the snippets of vague references and those marvelous dashes and the flippant use of capitalization. Rich knows her stuff.
Another thing I noticed that while the poem was about Emily Dickinson it very much reminded a singular poem. I appreciate that kind of talent and ability.
I don’t think I have the energy today to try to understand all the references, allusions, and other literary I-should-knows in this poem. I have promised myself that once I am done with the project I will dive deep into Dickinson. Right now I am cautioning against *spoilers*, meaning I want to get to know Emily D without much in the way of someone sidling up to me and whispering, “Did you know?” Nope, I want to get to know Emily straight up on my own.
Does anyone know of other poems that are about Emily?
Thanks for joining my on this journey.
The Dickinson children (Emily on the left), ca. 1840. From the Dickinson Room at Houghton Library, Harvard University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)