Sunday, February 14, 2010

Uncle Emily

My American Literature students have been reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Got to tell you, I really dig teaching Emily Dickinson, this is partly due to the fact that her quatrains can be sung to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.

It’s true, try it.

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statues touch the skies.

Uncle Emily, as she liked to call herself, was truly a quirky cool human being. The woman rarely left the house. Some think her self imposed house arrest had something to do with her tendency to fall for married guys, but no one knows for sure. The bottom line is she spent most of her adult life writing poetry and letters at her bedroom window overlooking an old grave yard.

I suppose what intrigues me most about Dickinson is the fact that she lived out her 56 years unpublished. She did submit her poetry, but they said her stuff was too unconventional, that she would need to make revisions, that her poetry was not marketable. So she sat at the window, looking at those tombstones pounding out beautiful poems.

After she died her relatives found countless neatly wrapped packages containing almost 1,800 brilliant poems. Her poetry wasn’t published in its intended form until 60 years after her death.

Emily Dickinson never backed down; she never played the game; she never worried about agents or editors or publishers. She just wrote – she just wrote amazing, beautiful, mind blowing poetry.