Emily Dickinson

(I stared writing this post about Emily Dickinson for her birthday, but failed - it's still not in a shape I'd post as a present to her, but I must at least say SOMETHING that tells you why she's up on my picture frames, so I'm afraid you all get it)

On December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachussets, Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born. Destined to be one of the most unique voices in poetry; I'm a terrible judge of this though. I would love to tell you that I know how beautiful her poetry is. I would love to tell you that I love Emily because only her words are so profound that she can touch me. That would be a lie. It's a lie that, I will admit, I've told. But it is a lie, nonetheless.

Loving a thing should be simple, but love is a reflection of the lover, more than the beloved. Each person can love only so clearly and simply as the clarity their heart contains. Over the years, I'm thrown my heart about enough that it's irretrievably scuffed and clouded and marred. I can't love a thing straight on anymore. The things I love must be very bright or very dear, or very gently tease there way past for me to love them , and even then, my love bends through, reflecting, refracting, prism-shattering before it can come out.

So, when I tell you about Emily, I want you to know that the imperfections in what I say are mine, entirely.

When I was a child, I was clever in school - people called it smart, as I grow older I've stopped liking that word as a description for people, because it doesn't mean what it should mean. So, let us say I was clever. I was also, after fifth grade very loud and silly. I could be funny at times. These were the things that defined me to other people. This definition was a hollow, and somewhat terrifying one to live inside of - in a natural, uninhibited place, I'm not loud, and cleverness is a talent, one that is worse than useless unless is adept at making use of it. As I grew older, I wrapped this little self around me tighter, because I had, as it were, nothing else to wear. Cleverness was all I was, and the only self I could cleverly be was a 'wit' - I use that term in the loosest sense. A clown, only one with just enough stored errata of knowledge to appear to be smirking instead of slapstick.

I don't tell that story for any reason except that I think, in one sense or another, it's a story that many people live. The world ask it's inhabitants to live a sort of subconscious performance art, instead of an actual life, one where we learn to properly fill the roles that the invisible casting agent suits us to. And in some part of themselves, I think most people feel a certain dissonance with this - I suppose in a way, that's what I was writing about in my Ozma essay, last week.

The reason I fell in love with Emily Dicckinson, is because she is the first person I remember seeing me for what I was, and encouraging me to be it. Emily is a poet of transformation, a sort of mystic transcendentalist, and the poems of hers that touch me most deal with either metamorphosis, or paradox:

I'm ceded, I've stopped being theirs;
The name they dropped upon my face
With water, in the country church,
Is finished using now,
And they can put it with my dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools
I've finished threading too.

Baptized before without the choice,
But this time consciously, of grace
Unto supremest name,
Called to my full, the crescent dropped,
Existence's whole arc filled up
With one small diadem.

My second rank, too small the first,
Crowned, crowing on my father's breast,
A half unconscious queen;
But this time, adequate, erect,
With will to choose or to reject.
And I choose -- just a throne.

This was the language my own heart - and the heart of the people I saw, seemed to want to speak. Through the many years since, Emily Dickinson is the one who has told me to be brave, to live myself and noone else. I've often ignored that voice. I've often perverted that voice. But, the language itself is still clear and sweet and true.

I put Emily up for my button of 'Wonderful People', because this thing she tells me is what I love in the people I think are wonderful - that they always question the script.


Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?

Nymeth said...

...I confess that the above comment threw me off a little. An interesting question if I ever saw one. Where WAS I? Ah - I was going to comment with "<3", which isn't that effective a communication symbol, and probably leaves people wondering what exactly IS behind it most of the time, but I can't think of any appropriate words, so "<3" it is - a sincere one at that.

Jason Gignac said...

Ms/Mr Anonymous - Try the Candy Mountain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5im0Ssyyus&feature=youtube_gdata

Ms Nymeth: I <3 your <3's :). I always appreciate that you take the time to come tell me you appreciate what I say :).

Emily said...

What a lovely tribute, Jason. Emily Dickinson doesn't happen to be "That Author" for me, but you've articulated so well one of the reasons I love the ones who are (if that makes any sense). The first time I read Mrs. Dalloway I felt - this is a truth of my own existence, and one I've never encountered before outside my own head. It's such an amazing and affirming feeling. Thanks for the post.

Jason Gignac said...

Ms Emily - I'm glad you understand. I can't wait to read more Virginia Woolf, next year - I really would like to get to know her better :).

Rebecca Reid said...

What a nice tribute to a favorite!