Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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Archive for November, 2018

On reading Emily Dickinson’s Poetry

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on November 30, 2018

I first encountered the depth of Emily Dickinson’s poetry in a article written by Hari Kunzru in The Hindu. I do not remember what the article was about but he quoted this mesmerizing poem of Dickinson:

THERE is a solitude of space,
A solitude of sea,
A solitude of death, but theseĀ 
Society shall be,
Compared with that profounder site,
That polar privacy,
A Soul admitted to Itself:
Finite Infinity.

It was love at first sight !!

A search on Google gave me a well printed and well organised version of her complete poems counting to about 1600+ in number. But Dickinson is not an easy poet. She makes you mull. For an untrained reader there is no instant rhapsody…one has to struggle to come to grips with the layered metaphors, brilliant juxtapositions, flora, fauna, Greek and Christian mythological references and the setting of her time. Initially it was difficult and I was on the verge of giving up..but as luck would have it I found Susan Kornfield’s dedicated website on her interpretations of Dickinson’s poems – which has become my Dickinson’s poetry crutch. The most telling aspect of her site is the lack of pedant-ism. On the contrary, she writes her interpretations as if she is a co-explorer struggling to find meaning like I was doing. It has been more than 3 months since I have been slow reading her poems, and boy, the joy is inexpressible…

I do not remember if it was Aristotle or Plato, who expounding on the nature of poetry tell us that poetry is something that reaches our hearts even before it reaches our minds. Every single poem of Dickinson stands testimony to that point of view. A thousand poems behind me, a fount of joy discovered, a lifetime of human paradoxes to mull over, the hypnotic beauty of her words – all available, all to myself in/at what Dickinson calls “the polar privacy” of my soul ( or its equivalent something)….Feeling blessed !!

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