by Toi Derricotte

Page 2

This woman appreciated beauty--beauty in nature and in language. No matter what she's talking about, her language is pure beauty.

Her face was in a bed of hair,
Like flowers in a plot -
Her hand was whiter than the sperm
That feeds the sacred light.
Her tongue more tender than the tune
That totters in the leaves -
Who hears may be incredulous,
Who witnesses, believes.
(JP 1722)

We're certainly writing here to do that, aren't we, to witness and believe.

When I was deciding which of Emily's poems to offer, I went to the back of the book where her first lines are arranged in alphabetical order. It felt a little like standing in line at the A&P and reading the headlines of the National Inquirer. I mean: "I felt a funeral in my brain." "It was not Death for I stood up." "Before I got my eye put out." She's wonderful with these first lines! Don't they make you want to peek into every poem?

There was a little debate among us--about politics and poetry and how they are related, and what the politics of feminism has to do with Emily's work. Obviously there's a lot to be said from various points of view, how we feel about this. I wish we could meet, break into groups, and everybody talk about politics, poetry, and Emily Dickinson, about whether or not she chose to be a private poet. I found this poem, it's an interesting poem, in which she says this:

I took my Power in my Hand -
And went against the World -
'Twas not so much as David - had -
But I - was twice as bold -

I aimed my Pebble - but Myself
Was all the one that fell -
Was it Goliath - was too large -
Or was myself - too small?
(JP 540)

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