On Emily Dickinson ~ Poetic rapture like a river flows

Emily Dickinson was described thus in an obituary for her by a dear friend : “A Damascus blade gleaming and glancing in the sun was her wit. Her swift poetic rapture was like the long glistening note of a bird one hears in the June woods at high noon, but can never see” [1]

It is the month of June and like summer, it describes simply this poet I have come to admire for her free spirit, her eccentricities, her reclusiveness, skepticism, heretical beliefs, obsession with death, all that shines through her unorthodox poetry that is without precedent and sets none either, a poet who remained original, prolific and unpublished during life except for ten poems. Now, there’s a lot amiss in this oft repeated picture of an artist, unsung except in death, but this is not always why an artist engages in the flow of art, it is simply to corral the psyche’s exhaustible attentions towards something that produces profound meaning simply in expression. For an architect like Zaha Hadid, it meant pursuing her own creative genius while being on the edge as a woman architect [2], for Emily Dickinson, it was seeking flow in the lyrical construction of words.

The only residential building by Zaha Hadid, seen along the Highline, Chelsea, Manhattan. The Metropolitan Museum in New York cited her “unconventional buildings that seem to defy the logic of construction”; Architect Sean Griffiths characterised Hadid’s work as “an empty vessel that sucks in whatever ideology might be in proximity to it”, (Source~Wikipedia). I somehow felt that Dickinson’s peers described her the same way, since she followed no established principles of poesy and indulged in no flaccid platitudes of the status quo nor conformed adequately to ‘correct’ her mistakes.

Now, a scholar might argue she is difficult to read, but her artistry was signaled only as an afterthought in discovery of her poems and correspondence; during her lifetime it was scarcely within the public eye as much as it was conduit for her own channeling. I would argue that Emily Dickinson found creative expression through a deliberate state of flow, of the focus of limited attention where we are known to be able to process only 60 bits of information per second. It was psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who introduced the concept of ‘flow theory’ in the 1970s based on his research examining the involvement of people in activities that did not engender money nor fame. He noted that it wasn’t relaxation or the absence of stress that provided for enjoyment, but intense activities involving focused attention which in fact induced pleasure, a state he termed ‘flow’ because during his research, people illustrated their intense experiences using the metaphor of being carried by a current like a river flows [3].

It would be a disservice to label Dickinson anything other than a poet who writes on everything

Yesterday was covered in all sorts of passage; goodbye to a friend, news of death, 11 miles of walking over a little island and grass covered railway tracks and then, a wonderful dinner we made the effort to prepare despite how exhausted we were when we returned home. I had a thousand themes for poems seeking expression and a mercurial overflow is difficult to channel when one is physically tired. So I actually surprised myself and binge watched the entire Netflix Regency Era drama ‘Bridgerton’. I very rarely watch television but this drama was like a Hungarian Dobos torte, figuratively speaking and in the end, I had had too much dessert 🙂 Is it any wonder I chose to read Emily Dickinson this morning, as much as in abject remorse for not posting to my blog per schedule as for trying to focus on one theme at a time, for my own state of flow. I excerpted two of the poems mentioned in the book, as they showcase the recurrent theme of Dickinson’s poetry, in death, entombment (poem 448) and she has a stoic insight on time in the poem numbered 861 [4]

Early morning reading
Emily Dickinson ~100 essential modern poem by women; Edited by Joseph Parisi and Kathleen Welton

There is something about being obsessed with death, it took me long many years to learn to feel as much sadness and sympathy for the bereaved as it caused me distress to feel the loss of those that actually died, in their loss of time, experience and life. I am not certain if this is the quizzical attitude of Dickinson towards death [5] but it is the eternal question in mine. Like hers, every poem is an expression that I know to describe death or life, express it in the logical scientism of the day but like life itself, it is difficult to understand.

Let me expressly get back to my writing. I hope you enjoy these poems of Emily Dickinson as much as I enjoyed writing about her today among other things.

Emily Dickinson ~ 100 essential modern poem by women; Edited by Joseph Parisi and Kathleen Welton


[1]Susan Dickinson, for The Springfield Republican, Years and Hours, Vol. II, 473 ~https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/emily-dickinson/biography/special-topics/emily-dickinson-and-death/



[4]Emily Dickinson, page 15, 100 essential modern poem by women; Edited by Joseph Parisi and Kathleen Welton


2 thoughts on “On Emily Dickinson ~ Poetic rapture like a river flows

  1. This is beautiful. I’ve always felt a strange connection to Emily Dickinson’s life journey. What I find most admirable about her work is the fact that she was willing to write beyond the usual rules of grammar (which can sometimes be incapacitating).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading Parveen. I admire her for the very same reason. It makes it difficult to replicate her form of poetry, it must have also been difficult for her to continue to write in a way that went against the grain of what was the norm among her peers. She obviously
      did her own thing, I hope it made her happy.

      Liked by 2 people

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