What can I say about Emily Dickinson besides that she was a genius, a one-of-a-kind, inimitable talent, and that alongside Walt Whitman she is considered to be one of the two parents of American poetry? Shall I mention that her poems seem to belong to both the earthly and spiritual worlds, and to walk a very thin tightrope between them? Or that her poems send shivers up my spine and take the top of my head right off?
The poem I’ve selected this week, which can be found in Love Poetry Out Loud (edited by Robert Alden Rubin), isn’t a love poem in the conventional sense. It’s about grief and separation, and about the profound stillness that follows emotional intensity like the stillness after a storm.
– Sarah Rose Nordgren, Publicity Assistant
After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?
The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –
This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –