Sunday, 9 November 2008

Poems about Insects

Emily Dickinson is a poet I have some difficulty with. She seems caught up in her own world of emotion and pain; the narrative voice intrudes in places where it oughtn't; the text is too overtly feminist for my tastes, not transcending gender as Virginia Woolf expects; these poems don't have the tight intricacy or cleverness of my favourites. However, she does right about insects, which gives her at least 100 extra points on my scale. Here are two:

Poem 96

Pigmy seraphs - gone astray -
Velvet people from Vevay -
Belles from some lost summer day -
Bees exclusive Coterie -

Paris could not lay the fold
Belted down with emerald -
Venice could not show a cheek
Of a tint so lustrous meek -
Never such an ambuscade
As of briar and leaf displayed
For my little damask maid -

I had rather wear her grace
Than an Earl's distinguised face -
I had rather dwell like her
Than be "Duke Exeter" -
Royalty enough for me
To subdue the Bumblebee.

Poem 1523

How soft a Caterpillar steps -
I find one on my Hand
From such a Velvet world it came -
Such plushes at command
It's soundless travels just arrest
My slow - terrestrial eye -
Intent opon it's own career -
What use has it for me -

How fitting to call bumblebees pygmy seraphs gone astray! It's one of those images that you feel you've always been looking for. And look at the caterpillar poem. Do you see how she uses dashes? In line 6 the dash, like the caterpillar, arersts your eye, slows it down, to match her eye in the narrative. How clever. And then the dash at the end (a common Dickinsonian technique) leaves the poem unfinished, with the caterpillar still on its 'plush' little march, like all caterpillars you see, crawling ever onward.

1 comment:

Cait said...

I really like her. I love her "I'm nobody, who are you" poem. And a bunch of other ones as well. She's one of my fav.

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