Poem-a-Day Friday: Emily Dickinson

Su Blackwell "While you were sleeping" 2004

May 15 was the anniversary of Emily Dickinson‘s death, 126 years ago. I have this deep friendship with Emily in my head. She laments like no one else. If I could take any class right now, it would be a Dickinson class. My deepest regret from grad school was dropping the Emily Dickinson/Walt Whitman course that would have made me poetry genius. (I was taking too many classes that semester and, alas, it was the responsible thing to do. But I’m still sad about it.)

I imagine her as deeply introverted, naturally depressed, awkward and full of kindness. I love her for her words but also for all that gingerbread she passed through the second-floor window of her home to the neighborhood children. And, I feel sad for her. I know the thick slime that can trap you in your own home. I haven’t obsessively worn a white dress every day of my current life, but I would’t put it past Future Micha.

This poem is one of my favorites.


After great pain, a formal feeling comes – (372)


After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –


Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999) via Poetry Foundation 


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  • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

    Have you read the Dickinson biography, My Wars are Laid Away in Books? I have it, started it, and then laid it aside. It’s pretty massive! Still, the title just makes me swoon.

  • michaboyett

    No, I haven’t but that is an amazing title! I started reading White Heat (have you heard of it?) a couple years ago and need to finish. (How many biographies have I started and not finished???)

  • http://www.darnly-steadfastloveandfaithfulness.blogspot.com Darnly Motter

    Yes, dear Emily… my daughter and I (both English teachers) visited Amhearst MA and her home several years ago. Loved it. I especially took pictures from her window where her desk sat, overlooking the walk up to the front door and thought of her sitting there watching people come up that walk. Thanks for the post. Love this poem…hadn’t read it before.

  • http://www.crookedmystic.com TB Pasquale

    Emily is truly a natural Psalmist. Her lamentations are eternal and the sadness and depth in her words has always drawn me in and makes me, equally (maybe the therapist in me), want to rescue her from her own tortured introspection.

    Thank you for sharing this! And I am going to have to look into that biography!

  • http://www.jenwritesstuff.com Jen

    After reading your recent guest post on Her.Meneutics (which was wonderful, by the way!) I thought I’d drop in and catch up here. Loving the Friday poems! And you nailed exactly how I feel about my friend and first favorite poet Emily. I wouldn’t put it past Future Me to hide out in white dresses and bake cookies for the neighbor kids either.