Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There's a certain Slant of light

One of Dickinson's great gifts in writing poetry is her ability to find language to recreate an experience for the reader. Through word choice and metaphor she creates not merely a description of emotion and the human condition, but she forces the reader to remember-- very literally the reader re-members. Breaking down remember to its elements: "re", as in doing again like repeating or retrail; combined with "member" or actively involving in something. Thus, the audience is transported from reader to actor as Dickinson uses words to cause the audience to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel the very core of emotions-- often at their most raw:

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons--
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes--

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference--
Where the Meanings, are--

None may teach it-- Any--
'Tis the Seal Despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent of us the Air--

When it comes, the Landscape listens--
Shadows-- hold their breath--
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death
(F 320)

Through this poem, Dickinson creates the experience of depression (and argueably of Seasonal Affective Disorder). She uses strong verbs like "oppresses" and nouns like 'heft", "hurt", "scar" "Despair" and "affliction" to create a stark picture of the soul-wearying, exhausting trial of depression. In this case, the depression renders the speaker incapacitated, which Dickinson describes through synesthesia in the first stanza: "There's a certain slant of light, / ... That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes" (1, 3-4). This is yet another example of Dickinson's skill in bending language as mere light, ironically which one would expect to be physically light or not wearying, oppresses like the weight of a pipe organ, or the "Cathedral Tunes". Dickinson blends nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs through metaphor into a super-charged metaphor of crushing power, and all this in just the first stanza.

I'll probably take up this poem again later, too. I know I'm saying that a lot, but I will get back to it.

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