14 May 2006

Emily Dickinson


I’ve dropped my Brain – My Soul is numb –
The Veins that used to run
Stop palsied – ’tis Paralysis
Done perfected on stone

Vitality is Carved and cool.
My nerve in Marble lies –
A Breathing Woman
Yesterday – Endowed with Paradise.

Not dumb – I had a sort that moved –
A Sense that smote and stirred –
Instincts for Dance – a caper part –
An Aptitude for Bird –

Who wrought Carrara in me
And chiselled all my tune
Were it a Witchcraft – were it Death –
I’ve still a chance to strain

To Being, somewhere – Motion – Breath –
Though Centuries beyond,
And every limit a Decade –
I’ll shiver, satisfied.

[from Cristianne Miller's Emily Dickinson, A Poet’s Grammar]

In poetry, meaning may lie as much in the interaction of semantic content and form as in a message that can be isolated from the poem. The more a poem calls attention to its formal elements by various foregrounding techniques, the more the reader is likely to learn about its meaning from them. If we assume as a norm language that calls no attention to its formal properties by deviating from the conventions of formal communication (that is, an utterance intended solely to communicate a message), then Dickinson’s poetry is richly deviant.

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