EMILY DICKINSON AS POET
INTRODUCTION: Emily Dickinson has the distinction of being the greatest woman poet of
. She lived a retired,
secluded life, yet she wrote great poetry. She is regarded as one of the
greatest poets of all times and perhaps the greatest of all women poets. Her
contribution to the American poetry is remarkable. America
MAJOR THEMES: Chronologically Emily belongs to the 19th century. But in their style and form, her poems have close affinities with the 20th century. She wrote her poems as she lived her life. Her universe was that of the soul. Her special task was to make that universe articulate. Nature was her close and loving friend. Her religion had no church. She could converse directly with her God. Death is always present in her poetry. In short, she mused on the mystery of life and death, on the nature of the human soul and immortality with rare insight and penetration.
AS A LYRIC POET: The bulk of Emily's poetry consists of lyrics. Most of them are very great short lyrics. The intensity of her own vision imparts intensity to her lyrics. Due to the perfect unity of vision and expression, she is ranked as a great lyric poet. A number of her lyrics deal with nature. Her lyrics are the battlegrounds for the clash of opposites. They deal with her fearless and heroic acceptance of life. Here is an example of her nature lyric:
"There is a certain slant of light;
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes."
TREATMENT OF NATURE: As a nature poet Emily did not follow the Wordsworthian tradition of nature worship. In her poetry nature has a separate identity. Her treatment of nature is original and her own. Emily is as much alive to the mystery of nature as to her beauty. The beauty of nature is minutely and feelingly observed and rendered precisely. The poet has composed many nature lyrics. They deal with all possible objects, forces and phenomena of nature. For her nature and God were the two unknowable entities which were beyond the range of human comprehension. In one of her beautiful poems she says:
'We spy the Forests and the Hills
The Tents to Nature's show
Mistake the Outside for the real
And mention what we saw.'
AS A LOVE POET: Emily is a great love poet who has personal experience of love. Her love poetry may be divided into three groups. The first group expresses the poet's love, devotion and staunch loyalty to her absent lover. The second group may be called poems of separation and consequent suffering. The third group may conveniently be called poems of renunciation. In some of her love poems Emily seeks to make light of her suffering. In such poems she writes of love with the mocking wit of the metaphysicals and with their conceits. In the following lines she compares her life to a loaded gun:
'My life had stood a Loaded Gun
In Corners till a Day
The Owners passed, identified
And carried me away.'
In a few poems Emily employed sexual imagery with amazing candor. Her love poems can be interpreted both as an expression of profane love and of love for God. In short, Emily has played all possible notes in the orchestra of love.
AS A MYSTIC POET: Emily is a great mystic poet. Like all mystics she deals with God, death, soul and immortality. She speaks of Divine love in terms of sexual love. She believes that the entire universe overflows with Divine love and beauty. For Emily divine love is the culmination of all spiritual attainment and marriage with Christ is the only means of attaining Eternity and immortality. To attain spiritual immortality Death is essential. It is the gateway to immortality.
POETIC STYLE: As a poet Emily was more interested in the content than the form and structure. Her poems are extremely compressed. Economy, conciseness and simplicity are the important parts of her poetic style. Her technique of writing poetry is typically American. Her English was not bookish English but it was her native speech. She is famous for her cryptic sentences. Her understanding of the meaning of words was subtle and complex. Her Images were drawn from life. She is criticised for her weak craftsmanship and for the violation of the rules of grammar. In spite of all these things her poems have great charm.
CONCLUSION: Thus Emily Dickinson is really a genius. She is typically American. Her poetry has vast range. Her contribution to the world literature is remarkable. It is she who is considered to be the best woman poet of the world.