Monday, February 05, 2007

I Promised a Great Poem, Here It is

The butterflies just keep materializiing ... not a bad thing, really.

I was reading the introduction to a poetry anthology last night and found a reference to an Emily Dickinson poem I was unaware of but it was quite a first line: A Day! Help! Help! Another Day! ... So I looked it up and that's about all of the poem I like so I'm not going to quote it. If you have the Thomas H. Johnson (ed) complete poems, it's #42. The writer, poet Robert Haas, went on to say that any poet would be happy to write one poem that lived on after her or him. Dickinson wrote 70 that are worthy of lasting for ages -- out of the 1775 in this edition. 70 great poems! We all know a few, or at least parts of them ... they're short, we should have memorized our favorites. I've got, maybe three largely by memory.

The resemblence may be distant but I think of Emily and Vincent Van Gogh as being alike. Unknown in their life times and household names today. Vincent wanted to be known; Emily apparently did not. Their work gradually came to light and millions are enriched by knowing of it, seeing it, reading it. How strange. How wonderful. How astonishing, really. The saying is "cream rises." I have some doubts about the general applicability of that. Surely many wonderful, wonderful poems, short stories, novels, painting, musical compositions have utterly disappeared.

Here is one of Emily's great poems: You're read it but it bears reading every once in a while, as do at least 69 others...

Tell all the truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explnation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --

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