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Connecting with Emily Dickinson's Poetry

Updated on March 10, 2011
Famous portrait of Emily Dickinson
Famous portrait of Emily Dickinson | Source

When reading Emily Dickinson’s poetry, often I will come to a poem that precisely expresses something I have known or felt but have never thought to express. We all have feelings and thoughts pressing at us just below the surface of our consciousness, so that we are aware of their presence but not their form. When we read a poem that connects with those half-conscious thoughts, it is like a seed that has been stuck pressing upward against the hard soil suddenly bursts through the surface in full flower. This may not actually happen with plants, except in stopgap photography, but it can truly happen with thoughts when reading poetry. For me, this happens most frequently and most reliably with Emily Dickinson.

To recognize that nebulous perception that’s been nudging at the edges of your mind perfectly expressed in a poem written by another person in the distant past, is to connect with another human mind in the stream of human experience. It is a wonderful feeling. It is something like hitting a chord perfectly when singing a duet, like connecting on a new level with a friend, like love. A poem that does this for you is an exquisite gem – a slice of human understanding captured like a snapshot of a dream. The poem has translated the dream or the ghost of a thought into something solid and made it live. Perhaps connecting with a poem is a shadow of the glory we will feel when we feel our bare feet touch and solid ground of Heaven.

Here are few of the many Emily Dickinson poems that have touched me:

Poem 1391

They might not need me but – they might –
I'll let my Head be just in sight –
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.

* * * * * *

This poem speaks to me about the possibility of connecting with the mind of another human being in a way similar to the way a good poem connects with mine.



Poem 1399

Perhaps they do not go so far
As we who stay, suppose —
Perhaps come closer, for the lapse
Of their corporeal clothes —

It may be know so certainly
How short we have to fear
That comprehension antedates
And estimates us there —

* * * * * *

This poem speaks to me about the mysterious presence of the spiritual world, and how it relates to the three-dimensional world of matter we know…how the sequence of time we perceive may not be the same in the next world.

Poem 1400

What mystery pervades a well!
That water lives so far —
A neighbor from another world
Residing in a jar

Whose limit none have ever seen,
But just his lid of glass —
Like looking every time you please
In an abyss's face!

The grass does not appear afraid,
I often wonder he
Can stand so close and look so bold
At what is awe to me.

Related somehow they may be,
The sedge stands next the sea —
Where he is floorless
And does no timidity betray

But nature is a stranger yet;
The ones that cite her most
Have never passed her haunted house,
Nor simplified her ghost.

To pity those that know her not
Is helped by the regret
That those who know her, know her less
The nearer her they get.

* * * * * *

This one speaks to me about the elusiveness of knowing reality – "it" is always larger and more mysterious than we imagined. We exert huge amounts of brain power and spend massive amounts of money to study aspects of nature, and just as we think we are about the grab the gold ring of understanding about the structure of a cell or the depths of the ocean or the nature of time and space, the truth seems to slip from our grasp, swallowed in the infinity of all that IS. Something in me is glad this is true; if the world ever became comprehensible, if I ever really saw its limits, I would feel like a butterfly in a jar. I prefer the feeling that because God is infinite, the boundaries of discovery will never end!


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    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I like Emily Dickinson's poetry for the linguistic consciousness I see in it. I'd be curious about your opinion

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      This is the power that certain poems hold within. It's quite wonderful how a fresh reading can spark such feelings, I'm so glad you discovered for yourself the magical process -the exchange that can occur between writer and reader. Tremendous that you are able to relate to Emily Dickinson's very special poetry. Thanks for the clear explanations and descriptions - I voted for this article.

    • mjfarns profile image

      mjfarns 6 years ago from Bloomington, Illinois USA

      Very poignant essay. I enjoyed it very much!

    • carolapple profile image

      carolapple 7 years ago from Suffolk Virginia

      Well thank you Marie. I sure you will enjoy her poetry. I have to be in right mood—a sort of meditative state——for reading poetry. Or maybe sitting down to read a poem gets me into that state of mind where I become more aware of subtle shades of meaning. It seems to use a different part of the brain than other reading. I wrote this hub in middle of the night when I was in that kind of mood.

    • SweetMarie83 profile image

      Marie Landry 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Beautifully written lens, Carol, I enjoyed this immensely. I'm not familiar with Dickinson's work - I've heard of her my whole life of course, but have never read anything of hers. I plan to now though and enjoyed the poems you posted. Thank you for sharing!