Monday, May 14, 2018

Carl Kaucher writes


Making love to Emily Dickenson
for the love we never made
on sweet sumptuous nights in the garden,
in words, dissonance... not pondering
metaphors, but lyrical scraps of sun
glistening golden beams of delight
suffering through the windows of her soul
quietly in shadows of her room upstairs.
In the meadow on Sunday we caressed
her silk scarf fallen about
her long brown hair flowing.
We talked of gadflys, grief and goodbyes,
took long walks in the Amherst rain.
And, though in joy she wept alone
she never spoke of it
the day she went out in dreams,
a beautiful stillness in her eyes,
lonely in probabilities of Eden, in poetry
we shall return to each other, then God.
There are daffodils in my Garden
the daffodils are dying.
Image result for emily dickinson paintings
Emily Dickinson Poem #1101 -- Will Barnet

I dreaded that first Robin, so,
But He is mastered, now,
I’m accustomed to Him grown,
He hurts a little, though—

I thought If I could only live
Till that first Shout got by—
Not all Pianos in the Woods
Had power to mangle me—

I dared not meet the Daffodils—
For fear their Yellow Gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own—

I wished the Grass would hurry—
So—when ’twas time to see—
He’d be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch—to look at me—

I could not bear the Bees should come,
I wished they’d stay away
In those dim countries where they go,
What word had they, for me?

They’re here, though; not a creature failed—
No Blossom stayed away
In gentle deference to me—
The Queen of Calvary—

Each one salutes me, as he goes,
And I, my childish Plumes,
Lift, in bereaved acknowledgment
Of their unthinking Drums—

--Emily Dickinson


  1. Except for 10 months when she attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, about 10 miles from her home, Emily Dickinson spent her entire life in Amherst, Massachusetts. She never married, and most of her friendships depended entirely upon correspondence. She was better known as a gardener than a writer; she often sent her friends bunches of flowers with verses attached but they regarded the latter more highly than the former. In her later decades she became ever more reluctant to greet guests or even to leave her bedroom. Before 1858 she wrote just 5 surviving poems; 2 of them were mock valentines, and the others were conventional lyrics about mundane subjects. But she wrote 86 in 1861, 366 in 1862 (a poem a day), 141 in 1863, and 174 in 1864. Altogether she saved nearly 1,800 poems but published fewer than a dozen, due at least in part to her dislike of the way her editors altered her work to fit the poetic conventions of the time, since her poems had short lines, lacked titles, employed slant rhyme and unusual lineation, idiosyncratic vocabulary and imagery, and unconventional capitalization and punctuation. (In addition, William H. Shur found dozens more unfinished, semi-structured poems that were hidden in her letters.) She sent almost 50 to family friend Samuel Bowles, who printed a few anonymously in his "Springfield Republican" between 1858 and 1868 -- "Nobody knows this little rose", which may have been published without her permission, "A narrow Fellow in the Grass" (published as "The Snake"), "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers –" (as "The Sleeping"), and "Blazing in the Gold and quenching in Purple" (as "Sunset"). In 1864, several of her poems were altered and published in "Drum Beat" to raise funds for medical care for soldiers wounded in the Civil War. Another appeared in the "Brooklyn Daily Union" in April 1864. In 1862 she contacted Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who had urged young writers to "charge your style with life" in an essay in "The Atlantic Monthly." Her unsigned letter read:

    "Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?
    The Mind is so near itself – it cannot see, distinctly – and I have none to ask –
    Should you think it breathed – and had you the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude –
    If I make the mistake – that you dared to tell me – would give me sincerer honor – toward you –
    I enclose my name – asking you, if you please – Sir – to tell me what is true?
    That you will not betray me – it is needless to ask – since Honor is it's own pawn – "

    It was enclosed with 4 poems and a name card. Though they only met twice they continued to correspond for the rest of her life, and in the 1870s he showed some of her poetry to Amherst's most famous writer Helen Hunt Jackson, who persuaded her to publish "Success is counted sweetest" in "A Masque of Poets," the last to appear in public during her lifetime.

  2. As an example of the liberties editors took with her verse, Dickinson wrote:

    I taste a liquor never brewed –
    From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
    Not all the Frankfort Berries
    Yield such an Alcohol!

    but it was rendered:

    I taste a liquor never brewed –
    From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
    Not Frankfort Berries yield the sense
    Such a delirious whirl!

    However, beginning in the summer of 1858, she began making clean copies of her work, assembling carefully pieced-together manuscript books ("fascicles"). The 40 bundles she created from 1858 through 1865 held nearly 800, but no one was aware of their existence until after her death in 1886 at 55. Her younger sister Lavinia Norcross kept her promise to burn most of the poet's correspondence, but she had left no instructions about the 40 notebooks and loose sheets gathered in a locked chest. Lavinia sought to have them published and sought help from their brother's wife and then to his mistress Mabel Loomis Todd. In the ensuing feud the manuscripts were divided between the Todds and Dickinsons, preventing complete publication for more than 1/2 a century. The 1st volume, "Poems," with 115 entries edited jointly by Todd and Higginson, appeared in November 1890, with the usual severe editing, and it went through 11 printings in 2 years. "Poems: Second Series" followed in 1891 with 5 editions by 1893; a 3rd series appeared in 1896. Between 1914 and 1945 almost a dozen new volumes were published, containing previously unpublished or newly edited poems, some by Emily's niece Martha Dickinson Bianchi, some by Todd's daughter Millicent Todd Bingham. It was not until 1955 that Thomas H. Johnson published all of her known poems in 3 volumes; they were untitled, numbered in an approximate chronological sequence, and strewn with dashes and irregular capitalized words in an attempt to duplicate the original intention. Three years later Johnson Theodora Ward published a complete collection of her letters in 3 volumes. Then, in 1981, Ralph W. Franklin produced "The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson." Using smudge marks, needle punctures, and other clues to reassemble the fascicles, Franklin tried to present the poems in their original order for the 1st time. However, many critics continue to maintain that the packets were gathered on the basis of thematic unity rather than chronological convenience.


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