INTRODUCTION: AMERICAN WOMEN'S POETRY
& DICKINSON'S LEGACY
by Martha Nell Smith
Page 7This seems especially important at a time when dissensus, disagreement, disputation, difference, contention, anxiety, and angst are equated with critical sophistication and with excitement: things are much more interesting, it is assumed, in struggle and fierce debate. Most seem unquestioningly to concur with Willa Cather that "Success is never so interesting as struggle--not even to the successful." But when he wrote of Dickinson that she had "a mind so powerful and original that we scarcely have begun, even now to catch up with her," Harold Bloom, who popularized the phrase "the anxiety of influence" and the theoretical paradigm privileging fret, unwittingly echoed Ruth Stone's "In her cryptic inventions, she broke the tiresome mold of American poetry. We still stand among those shards and splinters." As we shall see, this powerful and original mind was committed to love and connectedness to the very end, and I am trying to learn and think harder about that.
Contributing to Titanic Operas, Sharon Olds has written:
When I think of the power of poetry, I keep thinking about Emily and women, Emily and her mother, Emily as a mother of us all. . . .I think Emily Dickinson would have been political today--I think she is political, intensely political. And I think in other times and in other circumstances, the kind of astonishing action she took in doing that writing would have found expression perhaps in other ways, as well. She would have acted, refused silence.To make her point, Olds recalls "Despisals," by Muriel Rukeyser:
In the human citiesThinking of Dickinson's legacy, Olds remembers the often-neglected Rukeyser, and in spotlighting and reclaiming the latter, asks audiences to remember the importance of connectedness.
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