Emily Dickinson didn’t shy away from the big subjects in her poetry. Human nature, self identity, religion, death and the dualistic nature of our existence (body and soul) come up frequently. Spending so much time alone seems to have given her the opportunity to be very in touch with her inner self. In her poem #303, she declares that the soul chooses who it lets in that inner circle of self and that no outside entity, man or institution, should have that power. I wholeheartedly agree.
In his book titled Anam Cara : A Book of Celtic Wisdom, the late Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue wrote about the ancient Gaelic term “anam cara”, which means “soul friend”. When we really connect with people, somehow we just know that we were meant to cross paths. We can feel it deep inside, in our soul. We call these people our soulmates, our best friends, our forever friends. Neither time nor distance seem to weaken the bond we share with them. We can be our truest, mask-less selves with these people and they do not desert us, ever. Like a robin builds a nest for her babies, soul friends offer a soft place for the other to land.
Wishing you all an “anam cara”.
I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times it took me to learn this lesson. And it wasn’t just as a child. For some genetically ingrained reason, I have always chosen to learn the hard way.
Emily’s poem #292 begins with “If your nerve deny you.” I believe she goes on to say that we should send fear packing. Tell it to go lean on a grave. Death is waiting for all of us, but we must live in the meantime and nourish our souls.
My nerve has denied me on multiple occasions. I’ve been afraid to do quite a few things in my life. To speak in front of groups without my heart palpitating out of my chest took years. When I went skydiving ,I had to be bumped out by the instructor. It ended up being one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Sometimes pride interceded, and said I could not let myself fail at this, sometimes foolishness stepped in and said aww, come on, do it- it’ll be fine, sometimes my heart said yes when it should have said no, and sometimes my mind overthought the situation so much that a chance was missed. And then there were the times I listened to my gut. When it told me to turn away, slow the roll, dive in or take the leap. My gut has never steered me wrong, but I didn’t always listen to it, and that took me naked, down some brambly ass paths.
Here’s to all of us paying attention to that little voice inside our gut, the one that says hey you, this is not good for you or yes, that is good for you, stay off this brambly ass path, or you’ll be fine, just wear some protective clothing!
In the mid 1800’s, there was a deadly civil war and multiple waves of Cholera and Scarlet Fever in the United States, but not any pandemics as great as the one we are dealing with now.
If you’ve been following me, you’ve heard me mention before that many of Emily’s poems have themes of loss and death. At the beginning of the current pandemic I couldn’t even write, couldn’t “jot” one word. I was literally frozen with fear and an overwhelming sense of loss and despair. We took the situation very seriously and really did stay home unless it was absolutely necessary to go out. For three months, my husband tried to make me laugh as he watched me sit and wallow in sadness. That’s when I picked up Emily Dickinson again. As Professor Elizabeth Sagaser of Colby College says in her essay on DIckinson: “As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Dickinson’s poems of loss and longing can be good company.” For me, that was true and I slowly started pulling myself out of my funk.
I also had to start packing for our move, so out of necessity, was forced to get my act together.
Americans, and the world, watched the Covid-19 case numbers and deaths tick higher and higher each day. We mourned the lost lives of so many friends and loved ones and watched helplessly as the virus took its toll on everyone, young and old. We also witnessed many incredible acts of kindness and gained fresh perspectives and new appreciation for everything we’d taken for granted. Yes, we all needed toilet paper and disinfectants, but most of all, we found we needed our loved ones.
And Science. We needed Science, because you can’t just make up stuff or ignore it and end a pandemic.
And Science is coming through for us now. I just received my second and final Covid-19 Vaccine today, so I feel a renewed sense of hope. I’ve talked to others who feel the same. It’s not over yet, but we can finally see a light at the end of the long dark tunnel we’ve been hunkered down in.
Today’s Carol and Emily poem is about this past year and where we are today, thanks to Love and Science.
If you research analysis of Emily’s poem #275, you’ll find many in agreement that she is thought to be addressing a “love interest” and declaring that he should not doubt her feelings, her love for him. It’s somewhat hard for us to reconcile her speaking such words because although she maintained correspondence with several men, there is no proof that she actually consummated any of those relationships or took them any farther than the intimacy in her correspondence.
I have this thing about being doubted. I’m going to do everything in my power to show you why you shouldn’t have doubted me. A bit competitive, a bit of a rebel, I just have never liked being told I can’t compete, achieve, or do something I believe I can do. Believe me when I say there are a lot of things I can’t do anymore, or would never want to do, but you’d do well to believe that if I put my mind to something, you shouldn’t stand in my way. I hope I’ve instilled that same fight in my children and grands.
Written in a voice filled with confidence and the strength of a Mama Bear out to protect or provide for her cubs, today’s Carol and Emily poem challenges any dim companion that doesn’t heed that advice.
Spring is here! Well, at least officially on the calendar and definitely here in the South. Lilies and daffodils are stretching their arms, breaking free of their cool earthy beds and peeking up at the Sun. Swollen rivers are heartily flowing as snows melt and the brown ground begins to green. Tree leaves are budding and even the oceans begin to bloom, as waters are being warmed by Spring’s sunny serving of hopeful rays. Legions of Monarch Butterflies are leaving Mexico to begin their transcontinental journey to Canada, stopping to mate and delight us all along the way. Songbirds announce their return to warmer climes as a certain fever sets in and we open our windows to the sweet smells of Spring carrying the wastes of Winter away.
Emily Dickinson was an avid gardener from a young age and according to her letters and poems, an appreciative observer of nature all of her life. Her Herbarium, a collection, of 424 plants and flowers from the Amherst region, which she catalogued, classified and pressed into a leather-bound album, is certainly evidence of that. Dickinson celebrated them in a letter to her friend Abiah Root in 1848 referring to flowers as “beautiful children of spring,” She is said to have viewed nature as her muse, and I imagine that Spring was her favorite season.
Like Emily, I get much of my inspiration from nature. I’m lucky to live on the coast and find much of it on the beach, which I like to say is my church, gym, and community service outlet, where I meditate, read, write, exercise and pick up litter.
Todays Carol and Emily poem celebrates one of the signs of Spring, the Robin.
*View Dickinson’s Herbarium at Harvard Mirador Viewer
The Emily Dickinson Museum
Like Julie and Julia. (2009 Nora Ephron). Sort of. You know, the movie, where the girl in the tiny New York apartment took a year and made it her mission to recreate each one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
Julie Powell actually started the Julie/Julia project on her blog and garnered the attention of quite a few followers, including those who offered her a book deal at Little, Brown and Company. Julia Child was reportedly unimpressed and said as much, although I think that was a little hoity-toity of her. The book led to the movie and the rest, as they say, is history.
But get to the point Carol. Your idea?
One of my first poet loves was Emily Dickinson and the very first poem I memorized was:
Who are you?
Are you nobody too?
Then there’s a pair of us- don’t tell!
They’d banish us you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog .
To tell your name the lifelong day
To an admiring bog!”
At 10, just as now, this particular poem seemed perfectly suited for my introverted self.
Being an admirer of Emily’s work, I thought an interesting project would be to attempt a Carol/Emily project, wherein I take the title of each of her poems and write my own, on small pieces of paper and used envelopes, just as she did. And then I remembered that Emily herself titled only a few of her 1775 poems, the others were added posthumously by editors. So much for that idea.
But what about first lines? That could be quite a challenge, given the formality of language during the 1800s, not to mention the colloquialisms of her time. But could it be a thing? I mean Dickinson on Apple TV is certainly a huge thing. I’ve binged both seasons and am suffering in wait for more.
So here we go. I mean, here I go.
New year, new challenge and all that. 1775 poems. Stay tuned. I’m sure some of it will be less than spectacular, but who knows until I try.
Emily herself said:
“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.
Not one of all the purple Host
Who took the Flag today
Can tell the definition
So clear, of victory,
As he, defeated – dying –
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear.”
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Emily Dickinson lived and wrote in a society that cordoned women into one very traditional role, that of housewife, mother and helpmate to her husband. She rebelled against this tradition by simply doing her own thing and using her words to exercise her will. The majority of those words would go unpublished until after her death, when she would posthumously be recognized as one of the world’s greatest poets. She would not live to see white women be given the right to vote in 1920, but she did live through the years during which the suffrage movement developed and the NWSA, National Women’s Suffrage Movement was formed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in 1869,when they formally requested that women be granted suffrage and the right to be heard on the floor of Congress. Although not a voice for political change within her lifetime, scholars have noted that her words included many nods to feminism, along with the fact that her own life and the style in which she wrote was a rebellion against the status-quo of her times.
Slate.com answered the question, “Is History written by men about men?”, in their 2015 study of 614 History trade books published during that year. The answer was yes. 75.7 percent of the books they surveyed were written by males and 71.7 percent of the biographies were about male subjects. Only during my own lifetime have the contributions of women begun to be recognized and long overdue credit given. So yes, we have more female voices being heard today and we even have the first female Vice President, but when 172 Republican members of our Congressional House voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act on Wednesday, we know that there is still much work to be done in the area of equality. There are still many battles to be fought, many women’s previously and currently silenced voices to be heard, and many new chapters to be penned in the Herstory of our country and our world.
My Carol and Emily poem is a plea for us all to read, learn and teach the next generation both the Herstory and the History of our world and to rally against injustice in any form.
Letter to Congress from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Others in Support of Women’s Suffrage | DocsTeach
“Feminism of Emily Dickinson.” ukessays.com. 11 2018. UKEssays. 03 2021 https://www.ukessays.com/essays/english-literature/feminism-of-emily-dickinson.php?vref=1.
I’ll just say it right off. The “artwork” for today’s poem is clearly lacking, so much so, that I hesitated to share this one. I realize I didn’t hit the jackpot in terms of my creativity when it comes to making art, but I still try to give it my best shot. Apparently, on February 10th when I penned it, this was my best. LOL! Anyway, since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it timely to share.
When I was still working on my degree and my children were little, I wrote a story for the Children’s Lit class I was taking. In my story, a family notices a rainbow in the sky after a rain. The children question whether they can all go out and follow it, to find the end and the pot of gold. The mom and dad agree and off they go on a fun adventure to follow the rainbow to its end. As the story wraps up, they find themselves in the middle of their own back yard, where together they realize that “they” are the pot of gold they’d been searching for. And how true that is! Our loved ones are own personal pots of gold that no amount of money or gold could replace.
Today’s Carol and Emily poem is a simple one of hope and belief, that in the appearance of a beautiful rainbow, lies proof that life is good and many wonderful things are still to come.
I didn’t. It’s something I never considered , because why would you? But indeed, bees can get drunk on fermented nectar. A drunk bee acts much the same as a drunk person, dazed, confused and unable to fly. Arrests for Public drunkenness were often reported in the newspapers during Emily Dickinson’s time, but there is no documentation of Emily partaking in the drinking of alcohol. Rather her words tell us again and again that she gets intoxicated by nature. I can definitely relate. I often find myself taken aback, delightfully stunned, my whole soul brandy soaked in the beauty, natural wonders and marvels of our world.
The quote “Write drunk, edit sober” has been misattributed to Ernest Hemingway but according to Quote Investigator, there seems to be no evidence that he ever said that. Hemingway was known to drink often, but he wrote in the mornings and did not drink until the afternoon. Speaking of drinking, for today’s Carol and Emily poem, I had to look up the word “quaffing”. The Oxford Dictionary tell us that it means “drink (something, especially an alcoholic drink) heartily.” Not unlike Hemingway, I have been known to drink heartily from time to time, but definitely not when writing. It doesn’t work for the bee, who can’t find her way back to her nest or is rejected by the other bees if she does, and it doesn’t bode well for me if I want to make any sense.
Maybe like me, you learned something new today. With Spring just 4 days away, perhaps like me, you plan on going outside and getting intoxicated by nature. Until next time…