Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson!

I can’t ignore that poetry (and my love for it) is a huge part of this transition.  It is the oil that lubricates, cools and cleans the gears and moving parts of my thinking and action (Is this a poem?).

So, we (me and two ModPo comrades) attended Emily Dickinson‘s birthday celebration at the Folger.  Peter Gizzi was the featured poet.

OK. So he started off with #1286, There is no frigate. Then #373, This world is not conclusion. Next was #124, Safe in their alabaster chambers, followed by #448, I died for beauty.  Here he mentioned that Keats was ED’s favorite poet (never knew that, makes me want to go back and check out Keats (think I have his complete works here in the bookcase)).

Next he read #883 (but my collection, edited by R.W. Franklin, says #930; that’s why I write down the number and the first line, or at least try to), The Poets light but Lamps, then #778, Four trees upon a solitary acre. Here he riffed about the “deep interiority.”Then #591, I heard a fly buzz – when I died. Here he quotes WCW and Wallace Stevens (but I can’t decipher my handwriting: “A poet always ### with her poems” quote from WCW and “A new poem is a new mind” quote from Stevens). Next #372, After great pain, a formal feeling comes.

Here I felt he was beginning the conclusion…

#508 (but my collection has it #383) I’m ceded – I’ve stopped being Their’s.  Here he mentioned the Civil War, and how ED wrote 1000 poems between 1860 and 1865.  #290 (but my collection has it as #319), Of Bronze – and Blaze, and he riffs on “An Island in dishonored Grass” which he says may have been about Whitman, whom he says ED detested, though it may have also been about the green grass of the battlefields. I was blown away by the line, “my splendors, are menagerie/ but their completeness show/will entertain the centuries/ when I, am long ago.” Reminds me a bit of the poetry of the Gettysburg Address. He also said ED was 30 at the beginning of the Civil War.

Then #1679, the ditch is dear to the drunken man. Here he mentioned James Schuyler, his mentor/professor in the 80’s (looks like he was there at the birth of the New York School, with Ashbery and O’Hara). And he concludes with that awe-inspiring 3rd letter to Thomas Higginson (that, I think I have located in Susan Howe‘s My Emily Dickinson, though the only reference I vividly recall is that to Carlo, her dog, so it might not be).

My last note is a mention of Jack Spicer on the difference between ED’s poems and letters.

http://media.sas.upenn.edu/pennsound/authors/Gizzi-P/Close-Listening/Gizzi-Peter_Close-Listening_conversation_3-17-08.mp3

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