Amplitude and Awe: A Discussion of Emily Dickinson's "Wild Nights - Wild Nights!" and "She rose to His Requirement"

April 21, 2015

Al Filreis: I'm Al Filreis and this is Poem Talk at The Writers House where I have the pleasure of convening three friends in the world of contemporary poetry and poetics to collaborate on a close but not too close reading of a poem. We'll talk, maybe even disagree a bit, and perhaps open up the verse to a few new possibilities, and we hope, gain from poems that interest us some new readers and listeners. I say listeners because Poem Talk poems are available in recordings made by the poets themselves as part of our Penn Sound archive,

Today, I'm joined here in Philadelphia at The Kelly Writers House in the Wexler studio by Lily Applebaum, curator of the Brodsky Gallery, creator of many symposia here at The Kelly Writers House, including opening events, commenting on the gallery shows, among them Philadelphia Future Perfect, the intro to which I recommend and is available on YouTube. Those poems have appeared in APIARY and elsewhere who merges interest in poetry and poetics, environmental science, and social media, who tweets fascinatingly at Citrus Aid, and who has helped co-convene a wide open online course on modern and contemporary poetry called ModPo for the past three years and is a long time member of The Writers House community. And, by Cecilia Corrigan, a writer and performer, and sometimes stand-up comedian, based in New York, someone who spent many years here in Philadelphia, including a stent of four fabulously generative years spending a lot of time in this very cottage whose debut book, Titanic, published by Northwestern in 2014 has already made a, ahem, titanic impact with positive reviews everywhere and a spot among Flavorwire's top 10 poetry books of the year, who worked on the HBO series Luck with David Milch, and has recently finished her first screenplay. And, by Michelle Taransky, teacher, poet, poetry series convener, aesthetic enthusiast, whose 2008 collection, Barn Burned, Then won the Omnidawn Poetry Prize that year, who teaches critical writing and creative writing here at Penn, is a dear, dear friend of The Kelly Writers House, the reviews editor of Jacket2 Magazine, and whose poems in her 2013 book, Sorry was in the Woods, are said by Susan Howe to be, "Propelled by an urgent and luminescent perseverance in the face of finding one's way step by step in these dark times.” Hey. How about that Susan Howe blurb, Michelle?


Michelle Taransky: I might be her new Emily Dickinson.


Al Filreis: I think you're the perfect person to have here today. Cecelia, stand-up comedy? Really?


Cecilia Corrigan: I do my best.


Al Filreis: That means there's pressure on you to be funny in this conversation?


Cecilia Corrigan: I guess there is now.


Al Filreis: Lily, how many tweets have you done?


Lily Applebaum: I'm going to go ahead and say I might be at 19,000 today.


Al Filreis: Wow.


Lily Applebaum: Might be. That's [crosstalk 00:02:51].


Al Filreis: As of airtime, 19,235. That beats my own 9,355 by 10,000, so I'm feeling ashamed today, I think, or maybe relieved. Well, today we four have gathered here to talk about two poems by Emily Dickinson. The poem given the number 269, 2-69, famously known as “Wild Nights, Wild Nights!” And, the one numbered 732, less well-known, which goes by most of its first line, “She Rose to His Requirement, but it should be She Rose to His Requirement Dropped”. We don't alas have any audio recording of the voice of Emily Dickinson. Let's just stop and ponder about what a shame that is that we don't, but in Penn Sound's vast archive of special events and group performances is a celebration of Dickinsons' birthday in 1979, held at St. Mark's Church-In-The-Bowery, New York City, sponsored by The Poetry Project. Diverse poets that day or that evening came together each to read, and sometimes to comment on, their choices of Dickinson poems. Among them, Barabara Guest, Armon Schwarner, Maurine Owens, Susan Howe, and Jackson McCloe. “Wild Nights, Wild Nights!” was performed by Jan Heller Levi. “She Rose to His Requirement” was performed by Susan Lighty. Here now, then, are these poets reading our two short poems.


Jan Heller Levi: Wild nights - Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!


Futile - the winds -

To a Heart in port -

Done with the Compass -

Done with the Chart!


Rowing in Eden -

Ah - the Sea!

Might I but moor - tonight -

In thee!


Susan Lighty: She rose to his requirement, dropped

The playthings of her life

To take the honorable work

Of woman and of wife.


If aught she missed in her new day

Of amplitude, or awe,

Or first prospective, or the gold

In using wore away,


It lay umentioned, as the sea

Develops pearl and weed,

But only to himself is known

The fathoms they abide.


Al Filreis: Well, we could easily spend an hour on each of these poems. They're so great and dense. Why don't we start with Wild Nights, Wild Nights? The speaker is gendered how? Lily, what's your suggestion on this?


Lily Applebaum: I think it's, like, it seems, because Dickinson doesn't in others of her poems shy away from using gendered pronouns. Sometimes she uses one that's unexpected, like, she'll gender an animal or something, even though it obviously doesn't need a gender. It seems like we could take it to be intentionally engineered to not have that so that it might be a genderless speaker, or a speaker that doesn't use gender as part of its identity.


Al Filreis: Michelle, the sexuality in the poem could also help us figure out the gendering. Do you want to get into that? Clearly that's what's happening here, right? This is famously a poem about sexual excitement and desire and activity, I guess.


Michelle Taransky: I don't know if that helps us with the gender because we could assume that it was a wild night of two and not know the gender of either, so, like Lily was saying, we don't have a gendered pronoun or a gendered object, but we have a union a “the”, an hour.


Al Filreis: There's an I and a you.


Michelle Taransky: Yeah.


Al Filreis: Who might be you be? I is hard enough, Cecelia, but who might the you ... What are some nominations for the you?


Cecilia Corrigan: I might have an idea about the sort of ... The kind of sex going on because the last two lines.


Al Filreis: That's crucial, isn't it?


Cecilia Corrigan: Yeah. I'm kind of leaning more towards a masculine gendered speaker at that point.


Al Filreis: I suppose we should somewhat spell that out. How does the ... How is the engineering of the sex working out there?


Cecilia Corrigan: More in the is pretty.


Al Filreis: In, moor in.


Cecilia Corrigan: Yeah.


Al Filreis: Can we say what moor is, Lily, Cecelia?


Lily Applebaum: Well, you moor a ship if you, like, come into a port or a place that you want the boat to stop moving because if you don't tie it down it will just be carried by whatever current or thing, wind happens [crosstalk 00:07:18].


Al Filreis: You either moor astride a dock or you moor in a three-sided dock.


Lily Applebaum: Yeah, or you could drop an anchor, I guess, and that would —


Al Filreis: And that would count as mooring, I suppose. She's rowing. She's not steering a 400-foot yacht. She's rowing. Rowing suggests a certain kind of vessel. If the vessel is gendered female, and the mooring is gendered male, there may be both genderings going on at once.


Michelle Taransky: We're assuming one person is the rower and the other is the boat.


Al Filreis: No, I don't think we should assume anything, right?


Cecilia Corrigan: Ah, yeah.


Al Filreis: Is this poem that complicated?


Michelle Taransky: I think it's only complicated because we want it to be and we're enjoying being uncomfortable in a poem about sex or erotic that we don't know who he or she ... That that maybe to this group is an exciting thing not to know, especially in a poem that alludes to Eden, which is a biblical story with one of each gender.


Al Filreis: Wow, so a sexual romping full of pleasure is characterized by Edenic rowing. What are we saying about it?


Lily Applebaum: I think the line “rowing in Eden” is interesting because I think when you try to think of the sort of pleasure of the Garden of Eden you don't necessarily think of doing all that much.


Cecilia Corrigan: You could say that Eden is kind of standing in for organized Christianity, which has removed her. That's the difficult space in which she's struggling because she's not, as we know, a strict believer.


Al Filreis: But, we have a suppositional logic here. Wild nights were I with thee. It may be that the whole poem is a speculation on what might happen. Michelle, what are we going to do with this were I with thee, and presumably the rest of the poem, which is typical of Dickinson, and also of Wallace Stevens and a lot of other poets? You realize in the end that this was all just something that might've happened or might happen.


Michelle Taransky: I think there might be a formal clue that goes with that as well. The which the first and the last stanza have that rhyme, the luxury be, see, and thee, and the middle stanza doesn't. It has the off rhyme, or the I rhyme, but that she might be showing us that complication that this is not as easy as we thought. It's not an I and a you, or a thou. I think like Lily was saying about the work, if you're in Eden, if you're a believer, if you're into the organization of religion and rhyming poetry, you wouldn't have to do the work when you're in Eden. There's some sort of fall that's happened, like Cecelia was mentioning, so that she has to do this rowing work. She has to look at a compass and look at a chart. It should be easy when you're in Eden. You shouldn't have to navigate.


Al Filreis: But she needs a guide.


Michelle Taransky: Yeah.


Al Filreis: She needs someone to tell her how to have a wild night.


Michelle Taransky: Oh, so, tell her how to have a wild night, not how to adhere to the organization.


Al Filreis: Yeah. It goes either way. Lily, I know you're thinking of something.


Lily Applebaum: In the second stanza she is already in port because compasses and charts, that's what they're designed to do. They're tools that are made to get you to a safe harbor because why if you were a sailor would you want to be stuck in the middle of the wild, raging seas?


Al Filreis: Why would Emily Dickinson as a metaphorical sailor ever want to be out at sea and not finding her way back? Go ahead. I mean, we have to say this, don't we?


Lily Applebaum: Well, yeah, because she ... Her whole life was, like, she's surrounded by just a world that is so prim and proper, and so decorous. She doesn't care to be the person in port. She wants to within the power of her mind go explore crazy intellectual puzzles and think about really complicated topics that are usually in the world of ports and proper behavior only for men to think about.


Al Filreis: The wild night, I think we have to go back to the last stanza to understand the difference of the desire here. She, Cecelia, is saying, "Ah, the sea." That's the most ecstatic line, so she's rowing in Eden. She's way out there. Thee has as its antecedent possibly the original thee, the very first thee, so presumably a person who is wanted, or more than one person. The second antecedent might in fact be the sea, and it's possible that the mooring is actually happening out there in the middle of nowhere. “Ah, the sea, I wanna moor in thee, so it's not mooring at all”. She's doing, in a way, the opposite of mooring. Cecilia, go anywhere with any of that, do you get from this poem this desire to be unmoored actually?


Cecilia Corrigan: She's restraining herself even as she's experiencing the desire, there's a lot of roping in and reeling in, and restraint in this sexy poem. And I think that even the structure, and the way that the address, the central address doesn't even come until the very last line, is a way of sort of self-defeating that desire to escape, or to vanish. It could also be-


Al Filreis: Are you saying that the constraint of the poem itself is a check against the open-ended-ness of the desire, and if so why constrain herself that way? I guess this is for everybody, but ... Michelle, you're constantly teaching this to your students, you have this constrained form, but this uncontrolled content. Is there a form content irony?


Michelle Taransky: Well, there might be, so that if you are a heart in port, you're a heart that doesn't need a compass or a chart because you're constrained, you're anchored to this place. The heart seems to be the thing that she would want to identify with, she wants to be a feeling being, she wants to have these wild nights. But if you're at port it's not going to be wild, you're not gonna be rowing or mooring, you're gonna be sort of anchored. The question is, do you want to be anchored or do you want to moor?


Jan Heller Levi: Wild nights - Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!


Futile - the winds -

To a Heart in port -

Done with the Compass -

Done with the Chart!


Rowing in Eden -

Ah - the Sea!

Might I but moor - tonight -

In thee!


Al Filreis: Let's look at the poem 732, she rose to his requirement. Let's say, in a very simple, introductory way, what this poem is about. Lily, what's it about?


Lily Applebaum: Just what the poem's about is really in the first stanza. It's about a younger woman who gets married, and what happens to her, or how her life changes once she becomes married, as opposed to how it was when she was single or a girl.


Al Filreis: Does the speaker seem to be the person who gets married? No, right?


Lily Applebaum: No.


Al Filreis: Does the speaker have an attitude, Cecilia, toward the friend/person who got married?


Cecilia Corrigan: A little bit.


Al Filreis: What attitude would that be?


Cecilia Corrigan: A little bit ... A little bit snide I would say. But it's such an interesting poem because it seems like she might ... Dickinson might have actually been telling herself she was writing an earnest evaluation of the situation. But the scorn kind of comes through.


Al Filreis: It comes through, can we say any of us what are some moments where the scorn comes through? I'll start with the diction of the choice of word “playthings”. Michelle, any other sign of tone?


Michelle Taransky: There's something about the “to take the honorable work of woman and of life”-


Al Filreis:  That might be ironic, right? Could be?


Michelle Taransky: If it's not, it's very kind and earnest, and reverent to what her friends have done. Very anti-Niedecker. This is your work, being a wife?


Al Filreis: This is so Niedeckerian, Niedeckerian? The sense of work in Niedecker is ... The work I'm doing is actually what you're reading now, and if the speaker, Dickinson, is saying in a story about this friend of hers, or someone she knows, who's getting married, that's honorable work. But this is honorable work, and it's self-sufficient here. So very Niedeckerian.


Al Filreis: That second stanza, it's an if-clause, the whole thing is an if-clause. Who wants to untangle that and do the sin of paraphrasing it? Lily, start us off, what-


Lily Applebaum:  Okay, well first of all what's really, really hard about this poem and that if-clause is that the first stanza is so regular, it's super regular for a Dickinson poem to be the ABCB rhyme structure.


Al Filreis: It's ABCB, and the sound, “She rose to his requirement, dropped / The playthings of her life / To take the honorable work / Of woman and of wife.” So it's four-three-three-three in beats, I think. Go ahead.


Lily Applebaum: But then the second stanza uses two different idioms that I'm pretty sure don't really exist in english, which is “if aught she missed”, “of amplitude”, “awe”, “first prospective”, “gold”. So “if aught she missed of,” so “if aught” doesn't make sense to me, maybe it's just an idiom I'm not aware of, and also “missed of”, you would think ... I think it's trying to say “if she lacked”, or, “if she didn't have enough of ... amplitude, awe, first prospective”.


Al Filreis: Wow.


Lily Applebaum: But maybe I read it differently.


Al Filreis: No, no, no. This is great, can we come back to the disjunction and non-idiomatic writing here, and come back to it, let's come back to it. But let's start with a plain paraphrase. I'll try the first part of it, and maybe Michelle and Cecilia, you continue it. And I'm reading into this, so tell me if I'm wrong. If she, perhaps, should not actually go ahead and do this, if she should not have shown up at the altar ... Go ahead, what happens next?


Cecilia Corrigan: I feel like the first line could also be read as “If there was something ...” If she was using the language loosely, “If there will be something that she will miss” in a way. Because she's done this, because she's said I'm getting married.


Al Filreis: What's she gonna miss?


Cecilia Corrigan: She's gonna miss awe, she's gonna miss amplitude, she's gonna miss prospective, I mean-


Al Filreis: Prospective?


Lily Applebaum: See, I read it as-


Al Filreis: Right?


Cecilia Corrigan: Not perspective.


Lily Applebaum: I read it as if she didn't have these things ... If she didn't actually have enough of these qualities as judged by his requirement when she did get married, if his requirement was that she should have had a little bit more amplitude, or a little bit more awe.


Al Filreis: It's possible that they key, or one of the keys, here is the “it” in the phrase “it lay unmentioned”, and I'd like for us to spend a minute trying to figure out what would be unmentioned. Is it that if she didn't get married, or if she ... If she misses something by getting married, and that that is amplitude and awe, that's something that's never gonna get talked about. How am I doing with that so far? Yes?


Lily Applebaum: Yeah, but I still think ... I think the woman the speaker's talking about has gotten married by the end of the poem, I think she-


Al Filreis: And the speaker, the Dickinsonian speaker is speculating as to what would be missed ... period. What would be missed in that gesture, in that act. So then we have “as the sea”, and I take that to be a huge conceit hinge, classic Dickinson, that this whole situation, that it not be mentioned is like ... And what is the simile? “As the sea develops pearl and weed”.


Lily Applebaum: You can't just look at the surface of the sea and know where either pearls or weeds are.


Al Filreis: And presumably pearls are happy, good, beautiful, and weeds are ugly, awful. So

there's this sea, produces both. This unmentioning, this I would say repressing or unsaying, is just as, is like, the sea doing what? Can you abstract?


Michelle Taransky: It's the sea being full of amplitude and awe, but if you don't look closely it's just the sea, it's just marriage, or it's just the opportunity to not get married.


Al Filreis: Cecilia, what is the sea doing that is like the not-mentioning of the awe you've given up by getting married? It's so complicated.


Cecilia Corrigan: Well, it's quite ... To me, this stanza's quite self-reflexive, if I can get a little bit biographical, because in a way the situation she's envisioning between a husband and his wife is the situation Dickinson experiences between herself and the general world that is not interior and private. I also think ... So in a way the sea might be her own consciousness. It's just about what's unseen and what's non-explicit and what doesn't have a way of being integrated into the public eye.


Al Filreis: Further thoughts?


Lily Applebaum: I think that there's this covered over, maybe by this seemingly cute metaphor of sea, pearls, and weed, is that final line, that the fathoms they abide is very ... The word “abide” I feel like is really powerful when you're talking about a marriage because-


Al Filreis: Tolerated, lived with, it's not-


Lily Applebaum: Or even obeyed.


Al Filreis: Obeyed.


Lily Applebaum: And so I think ... This idea that ... And the fact that the sea is gendered

masculine by “the sea only to himself be known-”


Al Filreis: That's the sea, so as the sea keeps to himself the way in which pearls are developed and weeds grow in the fathoms, so that is like the suppressing and repressing and non-saying of the experience of the woman in the marriage.


Lily Applebaum:  To me it reads like the sea is equated to the husband in this scenario, and that he's the one keeping the pearls and weeds for himself, or keeping them hidden, or being the one who forces them to not come out, either by marrying this woman and taking her away from her previous life where she could enjoy those things more or by forcing her to abide by his law.


Susan Lighty: She rose to his requirement, dropped

The playthings of her life

To take the honorable work

Of woman and of wife.


If aught she missed in her new day

Of amplitude, or awe,

Or first prospective, or the gold

In using wore away,


It lay umentioned, as the sea

Develops pearl and weed,

But only to himself is known

The fathoms they abide.


Al Filreis: So now we're gonna go meta. In the first poem we were focusing on the question of whether the poem itself was acting within its constraints, seeking growing an Eden or wildness. The second poem, we're talking about ... The key word is requirement and abiding, which are both structural constraining words. And yet we have a poem that begins ABCB, very regular, then does an open-ended rhyme, the Tenisonian rhyme, ABBA, less regular, and then the last which is completely irregular, ABCD, there's no end rhyme, and it's the hardest one. And so I'm gonna say that the requirement got busted by this poem, and I'd love to hear your reactions to that. That would mean that the form is very radical, and is enacting her anti-marriage sentiment. Let's go around and talk more about that, if that's right, or wrong or whatever?


Michelle Taransky: I'm going to go with that proposition. I think you can see her in the first stanza really doing that work of the form. Then by the last stanza, I think what she's saying is we will only know, we will only be able to fathom if we break the form.


Al Filreis: This poem becomes part of the saying of the unsaying?


Michelle Taransky: Yeah. She actually knows, or she comes to know in this poem, because she does the work, I think.


Al Filreis: Cool. Lily, I'm going to invite you to comment on this issue, but to go back to that really brilliant thing you said about the unidiomatic second stanza, which is just so hard, so disrupted.


Lily Applebaum: Regarding the form and the rhyme scheme, I think what Dickinson is doing is almost comparing herself to a woman who would get married and live the normative lifestyle of the time. She's showing lived experience versus mentally experienced experience, did that makes sense? That first stanza would be the one that you would write if you were the married woman and that would be the end of-


Al Filreis: Honorable work is probably not ironic. Or at least it's pitched as regular.


Lily Applebaum: Yeah. That first stanza is like the surface of that sea. Then once you go below that in the poem, you get to this second stanza where there's all this ... I had to read this stanza 30 times and I still think I don't really understand the grammatical structure of it. This really complicated, subjunctive tense type of language that's very adrift at sea, going deep and fathoming, and all that stuff just like she says in the third stanza.


Al Filreis: Let's finish up by talking about the two poems together, but what do we learn about Emily Dickinson from these two poems? Maybe on the topic of desire, sexuality, the requirements of social relationships. Anything. Cecelia, what did you learn?


Cecilia Corrigan: I'm given the impression that, her choices regarding the distribution, or lack thereof, of her poetry, it's actually a really intelligent choice, although it's taught as this almost gender tragedy or something. Because she understands the limitations of her form, and of her own existence, and of her gender, and she is not going to put herself out there because she knows what will happen.


Al Filreis: What will happen. Yeah. Interesting. Lily, what do you learn about Dickinson in general from these two?


Lily Applebaum: I feel like for me the key is in Wild Nights-Wild Nights, where she talks about a heart in Port, not having any use for winds, campuses and charts. She's really careful to say a heart in port, and not a body in port, because technically, biographically, she's always in port. She's always at home in a safe place. But heart wise, soul wise, mind wise, she's always at sea wandering, not really finding intentionally so, not finding that safe place, but very much controlled, uncontrollable thinking and desire.


Al Filreis: Then it leads into just straight adamant tone. Done with it, she's rarely adamant. Done with the compass, done with the chart. She's throwing these things overboard. Michelle, what did you learn about Dickinson, or what do we learn about Dickinson generally from these two poems?


Michelle Taransky: I think we can learn things about gender, about challenging gender expectations from her day. Also, challenging what we accept as work, as honorable work, and how we can come to know how difficult that might be to come to know and fathom our existence. I think one of the things I like to do with Dickinson, which could be interesting for people who know a lot about her work, or even very little, is to choose a word like sea or work, and trace it through her poems. How she uses it in different ways or similar ways. Like Lily was saying, is it the sea as it exists, or is it this metaphor for the sea? Then thinking about how you've read the sea in other poems or other stories, because she does come back to some of these images. She comes back to the more, she comes back to the port in other poems. It's never a static statement, but she's definitely full of awe and she amplifies again and again.


Al Filreis: Thank you. Well, my final thought is about play things. It first gets introduced in the most conventional way. Either affirmation of marriage, of what happens to a woman in the 19th century when she gets married, or even an easy criticism of it. She dropped the play things. As you go into this poem, you began to realize that its metapoetic quality, it's [inaudible 00:29:02] quality is that this is the honorable work. This, the thing you're reading. That if one were to drop the play things, which would be, oh Emily, now that you are properly married lady, this is of course all fiction. Now that you are properly married lady, I hope you're not going to spend all that time writing these things on these scraps of paper and sewing them together and putting them into your drawer. Either professionalize and publish them, or stop it.

Al Filreis: I think if you drop those play things, we think about the scraps and the envelopes and the weird reading that she did, and the fragmentation of her learning and all that stuff, it's so radical. These are the play things. I mean, these are play things almost in the Derridean sense of the language is always play, and you get to play if you're not married. If you're married, you don't get to do any of this anymore and the poem becomes more and more radical as it ironizes those play things. Well, we'd like to end Poem Talk with a minute or two of Gathering Paradise, which is a chance for several of us or all three of you, if we do it efficiently, to spread wide, oh, this is Dickinson. To spread wide our narrow hands to gather a little paradise. Something really poetically good to hail or commend someone or something going on in the poetry world. Michelle, you were just going to pull a C.A Conrad on us. What do you have for Gathering Paradise?


Michelle Taransky: Yes. I have some amazing tarot cards. It is a deck of tarot cards published by a press called Factory Hollow, which is located in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Very close to Emily Dickinson's grave and birthplace. They've published this edition of Emily Dickinson tarot cards. The front side is a close image of one of the walls in her bedroom. They were illustrated by four different local poet artists, including Emily Pettit and Bianca Stone. They're gorgeous, they are $25. Go to Flying Object and purchase them, and it benefits a really great art space that is not unlike the writer's house. It really does gather paradise itself, and you can do tarot readings.


Al Filreis: Yeah, there are all these bonuses. Great.


Michelle Taransky: Yes, it's so many things.


Al Filreis: Again, what's the website, or what do you Google?


Michelle Taransky: Flying Objects, and the press is Factory Hollow. Emily Dickinson tarot cards, they're gorgeous.


Al Filreis: Such a perfect little paradise gathering there. Lily, top that.


Lily Applebaum: I certainly can't, but I thought if you listened to the Poem Talk, and you wanted to get a collection of Emily Dickinson poems. A collected work that really respected Dickinson's grammar, which can sometimes be hard to find. I just bought the complete poems of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas H.Johnson, and I really like it.


Al Filreis: The edition from 1955. Really important.


Lily Applebaum: It wasn't too expensive. So yeah.


Al Filreis: The big paperback. Okay, Cecilia Corrigan, gather some paradise for us.


Cecilia Corrigan: I suppose this book might not need my plug, but My Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe, is how I got so interested.


Al Filreis: It's how you got Emily Dickinson, 1985, a really important book. My Gathering Paradise follows from Cecelia's in way because I want to plug The Gorgeous Nothing's, which is beautiful book first published by Granary in a slightly more expensive edition, and now by New Directions. The Gorgeous Nothing's, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin, two remarkable people, with lots of advisory help from Susan Howe the aforementioned, 255 pages of envelopes that Emily Dickinson wrote on, little scraps of paper. One of the fragments that's in the book I'll quote from. It's a poem, sort of, written in three distinct directions of handwriting across three pieces of paper that have sort of jammed together. It goes like this. “Clogged only with music, like the wheels of birds. They are high appointment of afternoon, and the West, and the gorgeous nothing's which compose the sunset keep”. Hot damn. Emily Dickinson, the greatest avant-garde poet that we know. Well, that's all the poetic play things we have time for on Poem Talk today.Poem Talk at the Writers' House is a collaboration of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, and the Kelly Writers House the University of Pennsylvania and the poetry foundation, Thanks to my guests. Thanks so much Cecelia Corrigan, Lily Applebaum, Michelle Taransky, and to Poem Talk's director and engineer Zach Carduner, and to Poem Talk's editor Allison Harris. Next time on Poem Talk I'll be taking the show on the road. We'll be in New York to talk to some colleagues about poems that Kathy Acker inscribed into her novel, Blood and Guts, in high school. This is Al Filreis and I hope you'll join us for that, or another episode of Poem Talk.


Hosted by Al Filreis and featuring Michelle Taransky, Cecilia Corrigan, and Lily Applebaum.

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