by Toi Derricotte

Page 1

I hope I can convey the spirit I feel. I hope I can convey the spirit I feel of cordiality about what we're sharing. This couldn't have happened twenty years ago. Ruth Stone said that we're on the threshold of an enormous explosion of women writers--"Get out of the way everyone!" So as wonderful as this gathering of women poets offering tributes to Emily Dickinson is, we ain't seen nothing yet!

I'd like to share some of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems. I'm not an Emily Dickinson scholar, but I have loved her for many, many years, for many reasons. One of the reasons is because of her great courage to look at things--the most terrifying, the most beautiful--without flinching:

It was not Death, for I stood up,
And all the Dead, lie down -
It was not Night, for all the Bells
Put out their Tongues, for Noon.

It was not Frost, for on my Flesh
I felt Siroccos - crawl -
Nor Fire - for just my Marble feet
Could keep a Chancel, cool -
And yet, it tasted, like them all,
The Figures I have seen
Set orderly, for Burial,
Reminded me, of mine -

As if my life were shaven,
And fitted to a frame,
And could not breathe without a key,
And 'twas like Midnight, some -

When everything that ticked - has stopped -
And Space stares all around -
Or Grisly frosts - first Autumn morns,
Repeal the Beating Ground -

But, most, like Chaos - Stopless - cool -
Without a Chance, or Spar -
Or even a Report of Land -
To justify - Despair.
(JP 510)

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