War, Death, Religion: A DR’s Truth on E.D.
In a letter, Emily Dickinson claims, “I never knew how to tell the time by the clock until I was 15. My father thought he had taught me but I did not understand & I was afraid to say I did not & afraid to ask anyone else.” (L342). Does such a revelation hint of wisdom or virtuosity?
Nevertheless, some claim Dickinson’s masterpieces as displays of fatalistic genius.
Sure, Emily Dickinson’s poetry encompasses uncomfortable topics such as death and religion (or the lack thereof), but the centralized theme around many of these works remains fundamentally consistent—the pursuit of truth. The brilliance of Dickinson’s work stems from a hybrid of the poet’s self-realization mixed with her admission of self-ignorance.
Dickinson’s poetry is a mere expression of a Puritan woman’s quest for knowledge, like the tale of her father and clock supports, that had previously avowed too “afraid to ask anyone else” (L342).
To comprehend the poetry of Dickinson, one must accept the legend of the poet and how folklore adds mystic elements to her poetry. During her natural life, a majority of Emily Dickinson’s work went largely unnoticed, not widely published, and not exposed to public viewing. However, a funny thing would happen—Ms. Dickinson died. Then, her extensive collection of poetry would be “discovered.”
Naturally, where talent meets potential for profit, the works would be published—and a new legend would soon be born. This modern myth would grow as the story of a recluse, and her obscure works team with speculation, facts, innuendo, and of course, plucky claims grandly certified by distorted half-truths. Over the years, this would give rise to today’s Emily Dickinson and her customizable poetry to fit virtually any preferred narrative of choice.
Wish Emily Dickinson to be an agnostic goth? No problem.
What about an iconic pre-feministic shaman witch? If that’s what you want, well, you got it, pal or gal (as applicable). After all, Dickinson’s creations are equally fit to serve the equalitarian or the hocus pocus witchery crowds alike—while perhaps written under the muse of magical mushrooms. But, amusing portrayals are self-serving and oft overlook the pure actuality, to see—the real E.D.
Dickinson’s poems provide an opportunity to the sophisticated overthinking intellectual, the self-proclaimed “expert” that over inflates the meaning of a few of Dickinson’s words scribbled on a page.
The problem with overthinking Dickinson?
Straight from Dickinson’s eloquence one may deduce a unique wonder behind Dickinson’s poetry which originates from an extensive debate, that aims to, as Dickinson writes: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant – / …The Truth must dazzle. gradually / Or every man be blind –” (1, 7-8).
Emily Dickinson, too, was an overthinker. Thus, a complication of a complication leads one further away from understanding Dickinson.
One should examine the deep-thinker with a mind of simplicity. The truth of Dickinson’s poetry falls somewhere in between the pursuit of an evading fact and the lack of stimulating conversation. Evidence to both is evident within Dickinson’s unique quest for unanswerable truth revealed within her death and religious-themed poetry.