Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Sheltered Poet

As we turn towards week six of sheltering in place, I find myself thinking of Emily Dickinson. Here was a person who spent much of her adult life in her room. By choice. She secretly wrote poetry— lots of it—only seven poems published anonymously and the rest after her death. Her voluntarily Solitude seems so extreme that it made Thoreau look like a party guy. 

And yet the art of Solitude is to feel in the presence of the best company when alone. Thoreau at least had scrub oaks that he fell in love with and the constant comings and goings of the birds and bumblebees and the bloom of Spring flowers, but it seems like Emily was simply in the presence of furniture and the invisible spirits that peopled her mind. So in our enforced aloneness, perhaps she has some good advice for us to transform it to a working Solitude that perhaps was sorely missing from our busy and distracted lives. 

Here’s a few tidbits from her poems about that very subject. Go slowly and read them out loud to get the full meaning:

 A Prison gets to be a friend–
Between its Ponderous face
And Ours—a Kinsmanship express—
And in its narrow Eyes—

We come to look with gratitude
For the appointed Beam
It deals us—stated as our food—
And hungered for—the same—

We learn to know the Planks—
That answer to Our feet—
So miserable a sound—at first—
Nor ever now—so sweet…

(There are five more stanzas. Look it up if you’re curious.)

Here she reveals her company in Solitude.

Alone, I cannot be–
For Hosts—do visit me—
Recordless Company—
Who baffle Key—

They have no Robes, nor Names—
No Almanacs—nor Climes—
But general Homes
Like Gnomes—

Their Coming, may be known
By Couriers within—
Their going —is not‚
For they’re never gone. 

 Here's a poem that reminds us to limit our CNN, Fox News and even Daily Show intake!

The Only News I know
Is Bulletins all Day
From Immortality. 

The Only Shows I see—
Tomorrow and today—
Perchance Eternity—

The Only One I meet
Is God—The Only Street—
Existence—This traversed

If Other News there be—
Or Admirabler Show—
I’ll tell it You—

Finally, my own little poem:

Sheltered we may Be
Face to face with Me, but We–
More clearly now do See.
Your book upon our knee,
Your words, your thoughts, Thee.
Thank you, Emily. 

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