THE LITTLE CABOOSE OF THE EMILY DICKINSON EXPRESS
by Joyce Carol Oates
Page 2Certainly this is a side of Emily Dickinson most people do not know ever existed. Dickinson discovered, early in her life, a distinctive voice--it is evident in letters written when she was a girl--and worked all her life to make it ever more distinctive. She was the spider, sometimes laboring at night in the secrecy of her room, unwinding a "Yarn of Pearl" unperceived by others and plying "from Nought to Nought / In unsubstantial Trade - " But she was far more than merely the spider: she is the presence, never directly cited, or even hinted at, who intends to dazzle the world with her genius. One aspect of this genius is this deliberate smallness; its meiotic strategy--reduce, and conquer. Here is "'Faith' is a fine invention" (P 185 in the Johnson edition). It's but four lines:
"Faith" is a fine inventionOne of my favorite Dickinson stories has to do with the last letter she wrote, on her death bed. Succinct, and simple, and poignant; and funny: "Dear Cousins, Called back. Emily."
Here, a poem of three stanzas with four lines in each, fairly riddled with quotation marks that are, in themselves, signs of humor. How serious, the very custom of quotations?
You're right - "the way is narrow" -And, finally:
The Show is not the Show* * *
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Last updated on March 10, 2008