Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Luxury to apprehend

When people think about the poetry of Emily Dickinson, they so often think of her as the nature poet or as the flat-out confusing poet. She is not readily associated with love poetry, and certainly her poems are nothing like a Shakespearean or Donne sonnet, nor do they bear much obvious resemblance to something like Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems. And yet some of Dickinson's poems are powerful and evocative love poems, though often in an almost obsessive way, fully consumed by the beloved or longing to be consumed by the beloved. Her language is highly charged, highly passionate.

Dickinson scholar Brenda Wineapple writes about Dickinson's relationships, and she makes mention of this intensity that the poet possessed. Relationships were intense and Dickinson took them seriously, from her true friendships through what some speculate might be love relationships, though there is great ambiguity concerning any lovers Dickinson may have had. Her poems are, to borrow phrases from the poem below, of the "epicure" and are fully laden with "sumptuousness supplies". Excess and lavishness are the course, parting from courtly admiration in favor of pure extravagance-- extravagance sharply contrasted with the precise and yet concise lanuage of Dickinson:

The Luxury to apprehend
The Luxury 'twould be
To look at thee a single time
An Epicure of me
In whatsoever presences makes
Till for a further food
I scarcely recollect to starve
So first am I supplied.

The Luxury to meditate
The Luxury it was
To banquet on they Countenance
A sumptuousness supplies
To plainer Days whose Table, far
As Certainty can see
Is laden with a single Crumb--
The Consciousness of thee--
(F 819)

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