Author Topic: Still getting kicked in the crotch  (Read 298 times)


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Still getting kicked in the crotch
« on: January 11, 2018, 04:56:42 AM »
Go In Fear of Formality: Emily Dickinson s #341.

Emily Dickinson is perhaps the most enigmatic of all American poets. I m not referring to her private life, in fact, I think too much emphasis is given to the somewhat mythical character of Emily Dickinson. I refer only to her work. Though often her meaning is apparent, her poems are just as often shrouded in mysteries; I find myself asking, what does she mean by that? She reminds me of a friend of mine, who has the most peculiar sense of humor I can never exactly tell when he s kidding or not Cigarettes Wholesale Online. This sort of ambiguity is common in her work, and #341 ( After great pain ) is no exception.

I will approach this poem as if for the first time, and give a line-by-line analysis in an attempt to discern what direction she is heading in. To uncover her true meaning, carefully veiled in this poem.

#341 begins with the line, "After great pain, a formal feeling comes " Formal? Right away, we have a strange word choice. Not passive or accepting, but formal. Initially, I wonder two things about Dickinson s choice; firstly, I suspect she is being slightly sarcastic. Secondly, I wonder if she s attempting to define a brief moment between A Great Pain and acceptance, perhaps a numbness?

I remember a night some years back, when I was still living at home with my parents. I used to climb out onto the roof through my bedroom window to smoke cigarettes late at night. During a fitful depression, I crawled out there, heedless of the danger there was a half-inch of icy snow on the roof, I could ve fallen and broken my neck and I just sat out there, middle of the night, freezing cold, in the snow. And suddenly, just staring at that eerie orange glow that city nights have, and the way the trees looked, silhouetted and frosted with ice and snow, I felt alright. Not good, not bad, just content. Is this what Dickinson is referring to? If so, I still find the word formal odd.

She goes on, "The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs " Continuing the formal thought, Dickinson gives us ceremonious before changing gears on us slightly with like Tombs. I find it odd that she chose to capitalize both Nerves and Tombs. It almost personifies these things. Tombs is interesting, because it alludes to that numbness I described, yet it is ceremonious that I find the most curious. A five-syllable word like ceremonious is not used lightly, so it must be very important to Dickinson. The word ceremony has an active connotation to it, a life. Yet what is so active about a tomb? Looking up the word, I find three definitions. The first is relating to a ceremony. The second, devoted to forms and ceremony. And the third, according to formal usage or prescribed procedures Buy Discount Cigarettes. Now THAT is interesting. What is it Dickinson is saying about Form?

Interestingly enough, the poem thus far is written in iambic pentameter in what looks like heroic couplets.

The third line reads, "The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore," OK, now I must admit confusion. A capitalized He would normally mean God to me, but Heart is capitalized, too, as is Nerves and Tombs in the preceding line. Stiff Heart continues both the death thread of Tombs and the formal/ceremonious thread. But this question seems unfinished. Perhaps, then, this a pun? Is she saying was it He and then, as an aside, making a comment about God being a bore? This seems feasible, but if so, what to make of this next line: "And Yesterday, or Centuries before?"

The capitalization of Yesterday and Centuries like the other capitalization Wholesale Marlboro Cigarettes, and the dashes, it s jarring. Maybe that s what she intends here. Initially, I find myself hating these lines. Again, they seem trite. Tired. But thinking about the word ceremonious along with stiff Heart I realize she s making fun of the poetry of grief.

With this realization, the poem suddenly makes perfect sense. We ve got someone who s just come out of a great pain, a poet who sits down to write a poem, and it comes out so formal or stiff. Tired. Predictable. And in this poem, written in a standard meter, in heroic couplets, the poet questions the nature of God. Bore IS a pun, then, not so much that God himself is boring, but that the questions posed by the stiff Heart are.

Her venomous wit is accented by the music of her word choice. Though there s an alliteration in the first line ( formal feeling ) the predominant sound of the first stanza is s, a hissing, bitter noise starting, appropriately, with comes. The second line has: NERVES, SIT, CEREMONIOUS, TOMBS. Is this the formal feeling? Bitterness? Indignation? Line Three: STIFF, QUESTIONS, WAS. Fourth: YESTERDAY. CENTURIES. With the mostly rising iambs and these harsh S sounds, her distaste for this formal feeling is fleshed out Marlboro Regular Cigarettes.

Then Dickinson does something marvelous with the next stanza. She begins, "The Feet, mechanical, go round --" She breaks from the iambic pentameter with this line, and it comes at the best possible moment. Here we find the most scathing criticism of the formality in the post-pain poem she s described. The Feet, apparently iambic rather than literal, mechanical, go round.

"Of Ground, or Air, or Ought --" In other words, they re all over the place in terms of subject (but predictably so?).

"A Wooden way" I d really like to know what she intended with these dashes. Are they an aside? Is Of Ground, or Air, or Ought separate from the main narrative? In other words, assuming the dashes isolate side-comments, the thought would run as such: the feet, mechanical, go round a wooden way. If I am right in my assumption that she s attacking a lifeless ( Tombs ) formality in poetry, then this would make perfect sense.

"Regardless grown," Here I find myself a bit confused, but what I suspect she s saying is that although this formal, boring poetry is a wooden way and mechanical, it is grown either perceived as intellectually mature, or perhaps just in size as in, this is terrible, but it s status quo.

"A Quartz contentment, like a stone --"

Well, I don t mean to poke fun at Emily Dickinson, but I thought Quartz WAS a stone. Still, I think she s saying that this contentment, this superficial post-pain formality, thinks itself pretty as a crystalline mineral, but it s just as inert and plain as a regular old rock.

After the iambic pentameter in AABB rhyme scheme, Dickinson breaks from her own formality with a strange middle stanza that, while still iambic, changes line-by-line in the number of feet. Interestingly enough, it is in this stanza that she discusses feet as mechanical wooden like stone. Of the five stanzas, we have four feet, then three, then two, two again, then four. It s interesting how the language is almost constipated (STIFF Super Cheap Cigarette, FORMAL, CEREMONIOUS, BORE, with lofty notions of Death and God and Time yet in terms of meter and sound, she s gone wild with disdain, she s mocking this great pain and the adherence to boring convention that follows it. Of the sounds, it s mostly R s and C s and O s, all very hard sounding.

The third and final stanza begins, "This is the Hour of Lead " More weight and stiffness with lead, and more of the Yesterday Centuries temporal vein. I m Starting to see the odd Capitalization as more of Dickinson s Tongue-in-Cheek humor. She s poking fun at the loftiness. This is the Hour of is very grand, isn t it?

"Remembered, if outlived," Back to Death. How I would translate this and the following line "As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow " is, if they are outlived, they will be remembered as stiff and cold as the snow. Though it is possible that the snow that s being recollected is the great pain.

"First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go --" I admit, once more, a slight confusion here. If the snow is the great pain, then I can assume the Chill might be the same. And the Stupor I assume is the blind, mechanical alliance with dull formality. Which would make sense, this final line bringing it all together and ending with a little bit of light. First great pain, then boring formality, then perhaps an escape from all of that." Stanza three s line lengths at first seem as sporadic as those in the second stanza, though a closer look reveals a kind of symmetry: the feet lengths: three, then three, five, then five.

In terms of the music, there s a faint F -sound dominance here, echoing the alliteration in the first line of the poem, and there s also a return of the S s, too THIS, IS, FREEZING, PERSONS, SNOW, STUPOR. But the Hiss of the first stanza is weakened here, and there s essentially no trace of the hard growl of the second stanza. Musically, this is perfect: She actually lets go of that tension.

I think back to sitting on the roof of my parents house, smoking cigarettes and going numb, and I m curious about what sort of things I might have written in that state the Limbo between feeling agony and moving on and I honestly can t say. What I can say is, the next time I do feel like that, I ll be cautious. I ll be imagining Emily Dickinson looking over my shoulder, warning me to avoid dull conventionality.
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