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"The essence of poetry is the unique view–the unguessed relationship, suddenly manifest. Poetry’s eye is always aslant, oblique. . . .Poetic vision doesn’t see things head on. The poet’s angle of perception is not like any other. Emily Dickinson said it best: 'Tell all the truth but tell it slant.' " - Josephine Jacobsen

This section of the Dickinson Electronic Archives, Titanic Operas, is a setting for contemporary poets, and their complex, contradictory, always inspiring responses to the nineteenth-century American poet Emily Dickinson. The site is titled after Dickinson's most famous response to her contemporary, a British literary sister who was part of one of the most celebrated couples in all of English poetry--Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.
I think I was Enchanted
When first a +sombre Girl -
I read that Foreign Lady -
The Dark - felt beautiful -
Reading Barrett Browning rendered Dickinson's consciousness one of divine disorientation, where she could not tell noon from night, nor nature's pests from her queens. In this altered state of consciousness, even "the meanest Tunes" seem as if they are those of "Giants - practising / Titanic Opera - " and imbue life's rhythms with "Mighty Metres" (F 29; P 593). Such was the poetic legacy Emily Dickinson herself enjoyed.

Titanic Operas is presented in folios, each with a different editor and each with a different focus. They are not volumes, one subsequent to another, but individual, complete elements that envision a contemporary response to Emily Dickinson in their own way. Each folio is a work-in-progress, continuing to build, as is Titanic Operas itself. As Emily Dickinson's legacy grows in scope and influence, so too will the contemporary avenues that demonstrate the breadth of her own Titanic Opera.

  • Folio One: A Poets' Corner of Responses to Dickinson's Legacy
    This Folio began as a collection of transcriptions of readings given at a centenary tribute to Emily Dickinson held in April 1986 at Seton Hall University. It has since expanded to become a rich visual and aural archive showcasing all manner of responses to and contemplations of Emily Dickinson's legacy for women poets particularly.

  • Folio Two: Poetry and New Materialities
    Here contemporary poets present some of their own work, experimenting with form and forum, material and medium, in a manner indicative of the place Emily Dickinson has at the core of American poetry -- according to Ruth Stone, "she broke the tiresome mold of American poetry."

Here, whether directly speaking to or merely influenced by the presence of Emily Dickinson and her poetry, poets muse, in and with all their various voices, on Dickinson, her influence.


Folio One
Folio Two
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Copyright 1999 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
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Last updated on March 10, 2008
Dickinson Electronic Archives