EMILY'S POETIC TECHNIQUE: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
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.
POETIC STYLE: Chronologically Emily Dickinson belongs to the 19th century. But in their style and form, her poems have close affinities with the 20th century. She has affinity with Emerson, with Issac Watt and with the metaphysical poets in her turns of wit and her elliptical metaphors. She also has the affinity with the poets of the 20th century in her detail, her imagism, in her use of half rhymes and dissonant qualities. But basically she is Emily Dickinson, belonging to no school, fitting into no formula. She wrote her poems as she lived her life in extreme individuality. She has a turn of wit, a sense of wording, a sureness of feeling, a passionate grasp of life.
LANGUAGE: Emily Dickinson was a poet with special insight. She was more interested in content than form. She is famous for her cryptic sentences. They artfully conceal what she really meant. Emily selected those words that could give expression to her innermost feelings. Her understanding of the meaning of words was subtle and complex. Her poetry may not be musical to the outer ear but it is certainly resonant to the inner ear. Generally her poems were not addressed to any particular individual. But when she did so she wrote in poetic shorthand. Her poems are characterised by frugality, economy, conciseness, reticence and simplicity. Verbosity was shallowness to her.
LOCAL COLOUR: Emily's technique of writing poetry is typically American. Her content as well as manner is typically American. She heavily drew upon the activities done in common homes. Thus her poetry got a unique local colour. Events of local town also impressed her greatly. These resulted in the use of colloquial expression. Her English was not bookish English but it was her native speech. About her language a critic says that it was but a salty country vernacular caught from living lips. Her colloquial expressions, fondness for local spelling, unique use of the subjunctive voice and grammatical lapses became the things for criticism for generations of critics.
EMILY'S GRAMMAR: Despite all her disregard for accepted norms and forms of grammar and syntax her poems have great charm. She repeatedly capitalised nouns, adjectives and adverbs. In fact, she wanted to invest her stark adjectives and adverbs with a peculiar dignity. Her use of adjectives and adverbs is apt. Her use of dash is also extremely peculiar. They are used to convey musical effects and the over-all tone. They help in clearing the meaning. In many poems these dashes highlight the key phrases and provide a musical notation for reading the poem. Private mannerisms and oddities of technique were the natural results. In spite of technical faults and oddities in tone, it can't be denied that she poured forth her soul in her poems.
IMAGERY AND SYMBOLISM: The images that we encounter in her poetry are drawn from various fields. The works in the kitchen, sewing, housekeeping activities and activities in the garden can be encountered in her poetry. Nature objects are always charged with a symbolic significance. They are used to convey profound spiritual and psychological truth. Storm is used as a symbol of the soul's storm and the winter as death. In a few poems Emily has employed sexual imagery with amazing candor.
CONCLUSION: As a matter of fact, Emily was a painstaking artist. She constantly revised, polished and perfected what she wrote. Hers is an art that conceals art. Her works are characterised by crypt, curt brevity. Their epigrammatic terseness is often bewildering and confusing. She has been frequently criticised for this fault. There is also frequent use of dashes, ellipses and inversions. Half rhymes or false rhymes mar her verse. But a careful reading shows that all these are not artistic faults. Rather there are so many evidences of her greatness as an artist. In fact, the form is perfectly suited to the content.