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The Emily Project: Part One/Life–XIII (The Soul Selects Her Own Society)

Image: Emily dickinson journal.gif

Image: Emily dickinson journal.gif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.

Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.

I’ve known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.

Edith: gave an asterisk; a parenthesis around “Then shuts the door;” an underline nod to “majority”

Me: Wow! Emily D shows major deepness once again.  Edith, I’m with you on the asterisk, although I don’t think this one is going to be a favorite, I definitely think it is noteworthy.

First of all, the idea of personifying the soul, even though the soul is who we are as a person, the way Emily states “soul” it becomes an entity entirely separate, and this one has a queenly air.  “Selecting society” reminds me of those old movies we watch in class where Queen Elizabeth talks in third person: We are not pleased.  Emily D’s soul selects her own society, sounding like she is very particular who she allows into her confidences.  She’s got that selective hermit thing going on here.

I don’t use “obtrude”in conversations, yet it makes absolute sense in this setting.  Emily is putting on the ritz–she’s the queen of solitude and letting people know that she is accepting only a few select into her company of manners.

ob·trude audio (b-trd, b-) KEY

ob·trud·ed, ob·trud·ing, ob·trudes

  1. To impose (oneself or one’s ideas) on others with undue insistence or without invitation.
  2. To thrust out; push forward.


To impose oneself on others.
Even if you happen to be royalty dropping by in your royal carriage, she may not acknowledge you. A girl’s got to have her own set of standards, I suppose.  She is “unmoved.” I wonder if she had a lot of people knocking at her door to visit.  Playing hard to get, hard to visit, maybe that made a lot of people curious about seeing if they were special enough to get a nod from the queen of solitude.
The last verse confuses me.
“I’ve known her from an ample nation/Choose one;/then close the valves of her attention/Like stone.”
I hear her saying she has known a lot of people, remaining particular about who she takes in as a friend and once she has made up her mind, that’s it–the rock of decision.
I can relate to the need for being selective about friends, and how solitude is a valuable aspect to life. Emily Dickinson takes it to a whole separate level. Although in a classy way.  We are not receiving today. Please and thank you.

The Emily Project: Emily Dickinson, Edith, and Me

Hmm. Old ways do die hard.  I thought I had kicked the procrastination habit by actually completing NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately, this new found euphoria of meeting deadlines did not carry over into the December Photo-A-Day.  I tended to batch hit this project and *chagrin* did not complete all the days.

I have decided on a new challenge and since there are no requirements, deadlines, and other factors I tend to ignore, I should do better.  For the month of January I am launching the Emily Project.

For the month of January and maybe February I am going to focus on poems by Emily Dickinson.  Why Emily?  Truthfully, I hadn’t known of her existence until we began our poetry unit and after reading a couple of her poems I have decided I absolutely love the way Emily D ignores punctuation and speaks from the heart in all those crazy capitalized metaphors. Plus, I came across a really old volume of her poems.  I wanted some cool older books for my bookshelf and found this little green cloth-bound The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. The inside cover states it was owned by an Edith Strield (?) at one point.  Edith must have adored Emily D as well, since she has left her spidery comments next to quite a few of the poems.  We have always been taught to not write in our books and get hefty fines (and a lecture from the librarian) when we turn in our textbooks at the end of the year.  I like reading Edith’s shadowy comments.  It’s like I’m having a silent conversation with Edith about Emily’s poetry.  Because, quite frankly, I haven’t a clue what the poems are about half, if not all, the time.  Edith might have only one word or just a sentence, and yet that little bit helps me understand what is going on in the poem.

Sometime this week I’ll post my first Emily Project poem.  Until then here are some Emily D facts (thanks Wikipedia):

  • Born December 10, 1830
  • Died May 15, 1886
  • Became a recluse after attending school
  • Known to wear white
  • Fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime
  • Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality
  • Lavinia, Emily’s younger sister, discovered her cache of poems after Emily’s death
  • Emily liked Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, and Charlotte Bronte
  • Carlo, was her Newfoundland’s name
  • She wrote over 300 hundred letters to her friend Susan
  • Upon her death her sister burned Emily’s papers (her request) but not her poems and began working on them to get them published
  • Emily was buried in a white coffin
Emily dickinson

Emily Dickinson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day Three: Attention Defeated Disorder


Trumpet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t like commitments.  I have a closet full of failed commitments.  One failed commitment sits on my closet shelf nestled in a medium-sized black case.  Yes indeed, it does look an instrument case.  In fact, it is a trumpet case.  It even has a trumpet in it.  My mom would probably sell it to a willing party for a decent price.  It’s a nice trumpet, and sadly it’s not been played much. Why did I choose the trumpet?  I should have chosen the flute, like every other girl did in band.

In sixth grade my school wanted everyone to be involved in the performing arts.  You were either in sixth grade choir or in band.  Fifth graders could join band as well, only because there were more sixth graders who signed up for choir than those who wanted to play an instrument.  Know why?  It wasn’t because the choir was full of talented singers.  No indeed.  Playing an instrument meant practice, which is a lot like homework. But that didn’t bother me because my main, if not only reason for going into band was Eddie Liptenstein.  He was cute.  He played the trumpet.  I chose the trumpet.  Eddie decided Lily Wheeler was cute and she played the flute.  Girls, according to Eddie shouldn’t play the trumpet.  I stopped playing the trumpet and being devastated about the whole Eddie thing, decided choir would be a better choice of my performing arts time.

Whenever Mom suggests it’s time to sell the trumpet, I pull out the pout.

“How do you know I won’t play the trumpet again?  Someday I might.  Are you going to take that opportunity away from me?”

I lay enough guilt onto Mom that she doesn’t mention selling the trumpet for another four or five months.  Why not sell the trumpet?  Because Eddie Liptenstein blew on my trumpet mouthpiece once and I figure that is the closest I will ever get to getting a kiss from him.  When I changed schools I lost track of Eddie. I bet he’s still cute and for all I know he still harbors a liking for Lily. I guess it’s stupid, yet I keep up this little dream, okay fantasy, that I will bump into Eddie sometime as I’m coming out of a store. We’ll swap the usual apologies and then we will recognize one another and we’ll  get to talking.  We’ll start walking and talking and before we know it we’ll be in front of my apartment building and I’ll say, “Hey, here’s where I live.” And he’ll say, “Well, let’s go up.”

It’s unrealistic I know.  Sometimes I carry out the conversation and we end up going up to my apartment and we  laugh at each other’s corny jokes and talk in my kitchen, eating store-bought cookies because my mother never bakes or cooks anymore, and I’ll give him a casual tour of our place and when we get to my bedroom I will have left my trumpet case on the floor.  He’ll of course, notice it and we’ll remember when we were in sixth grade band together and laugh how I only stuck it out for a couple of weeks.  This is where I get stuck.  I imagine Eddie remembering Lily being in band more than he will remember me being in band and he’ll then  wonder why he has come over to my place and make some excuse about needing to get home and that awkward silence will fill the room and he’ll quickly say “bye,” and I’ll say “yeah, see you around,” and he’ll look away and say, “yeah, sure, okay.”  I’ll walk him to the door and then I’ll always avoid going to that store because I don’t want to accidentally run into him again

Isn’t that pathetic?  I can’t even gather up a decent daydream about Eddie and I having any kind of thing together.  Maybe I’ll let mom sell the trumpet after all.

That brings me to c) of my allergy list.  I quit band because of Eddie partially.  Okay fine, a lot because of Eddie.  I also quit because the band teacher announced it would be required to play for chairs every Friday.  That meant performing a selected piece in front of everybody in order to determine who would be what chair in the instrument section.  Play in front of everybody?  You mean like have everyone stare, while struggling to act like you are not being stared at, while trying to remember how to play the assigned piece, which you hadn’t really practiced because you don’t really want to play in band after all?

Choir needed at least one more alto, and I could blend being one of many girls standing on the risers, instead of sticking out as being the only girl trumpet player amongst a group of guys.

I don’t like people, especially people my age, to stare at me, look at me, or notice me in any way or form.  Let me rephrase that.  I do like people–I don’t like getting attention from people.  I call it attention defeated disorder.  There’s probably a real name for it and maybe I should go to the website that lists all the manias  that are out there. Not liking any attention can be lead to embarrassing moments.  Traumatic moments even.  I have a mental file drawer that pops open now and then that flashes a pathetic memory of having too much attention focused on me. Flash: running into the closet as “Happy Birthday!” is sung to me when I was five. Flash: “She has such pretty hair!” addressed to my parents over my head when I was nine and we were standing in line at the movies. I suddenly had to go find the bathroom. A more recent flash: “Class, this is an example of a well-written essay.” Fortunately, the teacher didn’t read my essay out loud.  My face heated up while my palms grew slick with discomfort.

Don’t even remind me that speech is required in my school. I am very aware that speech is required.  I am in denial at the moment, and I am looking into trying to take it by way of on-line correspondence.  Death by stage fright could be a first at our school.  Being frightened of people looking at me to the point of stomach clenching means limited extra-curricular high school participation. I barely make it through my classes when we have to make class presentations.  I find a spot on the wall and stare at it until I finish. I would really like to try some new things but truly, anything beyond course requirements? No way. Forget cheerleading, dance team, debate club, ACADECA, even the ping-pong club.  I don’t interact well with others.  I don’t make friends easily. I don’t want to get involved.  I want to cocoon.  I want to keep myself to myself.

I could blame my hermit tendencies on my parents who have moved us at least fifteen times since I’ve been born.  Yes, that’s right.  The reason we live in an apartment instead of a house is because my parents don’t want to be tied down to any one spot.  We have lived in all kinds of places besides apartments: a couple of condominiums, a yurt,  in a reconverted barn, on a houseboat, and for a couple of months in a treehouse.  Sometimes the moves are in the same town, often it’s across the state.  A couple of times across the country. No moving to foreign lands as of yet.  My parents do this because they claim that being writers allows them try new opportunities. Well, I’m not a writer, and I’m not sure I need all these constant opportunities.

I have to ask myself if this is the reason why I am doing the NaNoWriMo challenge? Oh sure, the extra credit is bonus and a great incentive.  If I wanted to be really honest with myself I would look deep and ask, “Am I needing to prove whether or not I’m a writer like my parents?”  I think I’m doing this is because I want to prove  for the record I am not a writer.  Once I start and inevitably fall short of the required word goal I’ll be able to honestly say to my parents, “Hey, I tried writing.  It didn’t work out for me.”  Not only do I predict I will be unsuccessful at completing my NaNoWriMo attempt I will fail in an epic way.  Not completing a 50,000 word commitment will be such a huge failure I will be able to safely step away from other writing attempts.

I am hoping my failure to launch a novel will get my parents to realize I am not a writer, that I don’t need to be a writer, and would like to stop all attempts on their part to get me to try to be a writer. I am hoping this failed writing experiment will dash, crush, and perhaps smash their hopes of me following their writing footsteps. Maybe it’ll at least deter the flow of gift journals.

Every time it’s a birthday or it’s Christmas or the random occasional, “I saw this at Barnes&Nobles/Staples/Hallmark and thought of you,” I get a journal.

The problem with journals is there is an expectation of filling the pages.   Secretly, I believe journals come pre-written with poems, stories, and clever observations, but when I open the journal the words must instantly evaporate, as if the daylight disintegrates them away.  They silently vacate the previously occupied space sensing a non-writer approaches their domain.  They discern I’m nervous about expressing any possibility of possessing an imagination.

Thumbing through the empty pages I’m always at a loss at how to fill them. It’s daunting to face the task of filling an empty book.  There is no grammar check, spell check, font style, dictionary or thesaurus in a journal.  It’s only me.

I keep talking about failing.  So, why even try?  Why not quit before I start?  Because.  Because what if I surprise myself and I can produce 50,000 words in a month?  Isn’t it time to actually finish something?  Ugh. I just sounded like my mom. Then again, what if this turns out well? I think I am trying to convince myself to do this.

I’m not going to scribble away in a notebook or in any of those chic little journals mom and dad buy me. To me, journals are reminders of attempted heroics with muse. I don’t want any reminders of trying and failing.  And I don’t want a repeat of the kitchen table incident from eighth grade when I totally got distracted and left a notebook out.  Mom found it, thumbed through it, found some of my poetry, story starts, and idea doodles and started flipping out about how glad she is I’m writing.  That part wasn’t so bad.  No, what she does then is starts correcting my stuff. Does she think she’s in a remake of Finding Forrester? Nope, I’m going for the undercover blog. I’m not signing my name and no one will know I’m writing.  No one.  Not even Mrs. X.  I don’t have to tell her my blog all I have to do is screen shot I’m writing one she said.  She told me, “I don’t want you to feel that I’m peering over your shoulder reading your entries.  That would take the fun out of it, wouldn’t it.”  I like her for that. All I have to do is tally in my weekly word totals and produce the certificate of completion.

If only I could think up something to write about.