TOWARD A POETRY THAT MATTERS:
EMILY DICKINSON AS ACTIVIST/ACTIVATOR
by Frances Payne Adler
Page 5Not only does Dickinson foresee women's freedom, and the celebration of it, but she also sees herself as part of that future and imagines us acknowledging her for her part in getting us there:
I wait thy far fantastic bells -I sense that Dickinson was connected to women across time and place, that it was what she meant by "Circumference." The circle that connected her to me, to my students each semester, to students across the country year after year, to people reading her and who have read her in different languages in this country, and around the world, she is "announced" in all their "dells."
6) Sixth, she had faith in the power of her poetry, of her vision, her map of transformation. And the faith that those she had "shunned" so that she could do the work she needed to do, would in the end, understand. In 1877 she copied out the poem:
I shall not murmur if at lastTreason? "My Wars are laid away in Books," she recorded in the 1880s (JP 1549).
For me as a white woman poet standing fifteen years on the cusp of two worlds: the traditional one and the emerging one, Dickinson was the first subversive woman poet I read. I found Dickinson's life--more than 100 years earlier--strangely familiar: my anger, when I attempted to speak it, "dispelled in tears"; my desire for change that somehow felt like "treason," the sense of feeling "my life with both my hands / To see if it was there - "
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Last updated on March 10, 2008