Poem of the week: The Past is such a Curious Creature by Emily Dickinson

The Past is such a Curious Creature by Emily Dickinson

The Past is such a curious Creature
To look her in the Face
A Transport may receipt us
Or a Disgrace.

Unarmed if any meet her
I charge him fly
Her faded Ammunition
Might yet reply

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet.Considered an eccentric by the locals, she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room.

Most of her friendships were therefore carried out by correspondence.While Dickinson was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime.The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Dickinson’s poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalisation and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and155_EmilyDickinsonSmall immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends.

A glance through Dickinson’s poems reveals their characteristic external forms.

Most of Emily Dickinson’s poems are written in short stanzas, mostly quatrains, with short lines, usually rhyming only on the second and fourth lines.

A large number of Dickinson’s rhymes are what we call partial, slant, or off-rhymes, some of these so faint as to be barely recognizable. She was obviously aware that she was violating convention here, but she stubbornly stuck to her ways. These stanza forms and, to a lesser extent, her poetic rhymes took their chief source from the standard Protestant hymns of her day.

Besides the great conciseness of language, the most striking signature of Dickinson’s style is her blending of the homely and exalted, the trivial and the precious, in her images, metaphors, and scenes. The chief effect that she achieves here is to increase our scrutiny of small-scale things and focus on the texture and significance of large ones. It also serves to permeate her physical world with questions of value. Dickinson’s sense of humor and her skepticism help communicate the urgencies of her doubts and need to find faith. Her metaphors are also sometimes telescoped; that is, they incorporate elements so condensed or disparate that they must be elongated, drawn out like a telescope, to reveal the full structure of a picture or an idea.



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