Sunday, November 8, 2009

I was the slightest in the House

I was the slightest in the House--
I took the smallest Room--
At night, my little Lamp, and Book--
And one Geranium

So stationed I could catch the mint
That never ceased to fall--
And just my Basket--
Let me think-- I'm sure
That this was all--

I never spoke-- unless addressed--
And then, 'twas brief and low--
I could not bear to live-- aloud--
The Racket shamed me so--

And if it had not been so far--
And any one I knew
Were going-- I had often thought
How noteless-- I could die--
(F 473)

working on my thoughts on this one... back later with commentary.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Future never spoke (pt 2)

This poem is a sharp reminder of the mystery that is the future. It is something that many writers have grappled with, trying to sort through views of the future through a lens like Christianity or other religions which contain a divine order, as some see it, or what others perceive as deism, wherein a God created but then stepped back to no longer intervene and watch what unfolds. Some writers, like some of Shakespeare's plays, reference the wheel of fate and its cruel impulsiveness. Dickinson's speaker seems to take a rather athiestic approach, disregarding anything as mystical as prophecy as he or she declares that no one can know the future. For this speaker, not even the hint of the smallest sign will give away that lies a year, a month, a week, a day, an hour, or even a minute ahead.

Life happens unpredictably in this poem. In the second stanza, when the time arrives, what happens simply happens, leaving everyone to scramble to react and adapt. The future careens into the present, "Forestalling Preparation" and leaving man with little choice but to adapt. There is no "substitute" for the future or for the one experiencing. Man does not choose his joys nor his sorrows. And the future, fate or otherwise, remains indifferent to the human condition. The future remains exacting, "His Office but to execute", with no emotion, what fate dictates. There is a stoicism in the poem, an edge that is void of sympathy. In the end, this poem is the ultimate in "open endings" for the poem is left wide for the reader to interpret and to agree or disagree with both Dickinson and the speaker. And at the very literal text level, the poem in itself is wide open, lacking an ending and unknowing what fate awaits it-- to be remembered, to be forgotten among many other poems and pages, to continue, to end.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Future never spoke

The Future never spoke--
Nor will he like the Dumb
Reveal by sign a Syllable
Of his profound To Come--

But when the News be ripe
Presents it in the Act--
Forestalling Preparation--
Escape-- or Substitute--

Indifferent to him
The Dower-- as the Doom--
His Office but to execute
Fate's Telegram-- to Him--

(F 638)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How many schemes may die

How many schemes may die
In one short Afternoon
Entirely unknown
To those they most concern--
The man that was not lost
Because by accident
He varied by a Ribbon's width
From his accustomed route--
The Love that would not try
Because beside the Door
Some unsuspecting Horse was tied
Surveying his Despair
(F 1326)

There are so many things that happen, seemingly by chance, that alter lives and expectations. It was Robert Burns who wrote "The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy." In this particular poem, a person may have planned the ruin of another, in the case of the man walking along the road. The death of the man in the road was avoided when the man, ignorant of his danger, changed his normal route by the slightest bit. Certainly the one who schemed against him was thwarted, this person's plans dying in the short afternoon, the failure of the plan to kill another dying unbeknowst to the planner.

The poem reads as if this man, who narrowly missed his death, is the very one whose own route was changed by the appearance of a horse at the doorway. The implication appears to be that this man was visiting his beloved, perhaps wife or sweetheart or lover, to find another's animal tied out front. Seeing this unexpected horse, Dickinson's poem implies that the man would not try to love or pursue his love. In this way, the man's plans were additionally thwarted. Perhaps this beloved was not unfaithful, perhaps the original schemer wished to drive a wedge between the man and his love. The beloved's plans of love and a future or continued future with her lover could equally have been thwarted, all unknown to her.

and... it's entirely possible that I have completely misinterpreted this poem.

Monday, November 2, 2009

That sacred Closet when you sweep

That sacred Closet when you sweep--
Entitled "Memory"--
Select a reverential Broom--
And do it silently--

'Twill be a Labor of surprise--
Besides Identity
Of other Interlocutors
A probablity--

August the Dust of that Domain--
Unchallenged-- let it lie--
You cannot supercede itself,
But it can silence you.
(F 1385)

I believe that Dickinson kept her poems with the intent of publishing them someday, and I believe that she thought that in publication she might be able to continue to live through her work, continue to speak through poetry in a way that only she can. Memory was sacred to Dickinson, and her closeness to her family and the poetry that seems to so closely resemble her personal losses and triumphs only supports this conclusion.

It is no suprise that Dickinson's speaker describes memory as a "sacred closet" in disarray. Certainly our memories have no set order to them. Some things are near the surface, others buried deep, down under piles and piles. Some memories are useful and others are a distraction or impediment. The "labor of surprise" comes when one uncovers that memory that has been allocated to the back corner, dust-covered but not entirely forgotten.

For someone as unafraid of confrontation as Dickinson, it may surprise the reader to reach line ten in which the speaker warns "Unchallenged-- let it die", in reference the dust upon the memories. Perhaps this is because some memories, though briefly recalled and dusted off to be considered again, will only be quickly forgotten once more. On the other hand, the speaker could be implying that disturbing the dust upon these memories will only stir up problems or more work and that some things are better left alone. Again, Dickinson leaves much of the exact interpretation ambiguous, allowing her readers to draw their own conclusions that reflect their own selves and experiences.