PERIPETEIA


                                                        A site for students studying English at 'A' Level/University. Discussion Forums and unique 
                                                  Online Seminars to build confidence, creativity, and individual analytical style.

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Poetry > Emily Dickinson, Tuesday 20 March, 7pm

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Hello all! My name's Will May, and I'm running an online seminar on Tuesday at 7pm on the work of Emily Dickinson, one of my favourite poets. We'll be looking at the poems 'There's a certain slant of light', 'I'm Nobody!' and 'Because I could not stop for death', thinking particularly about the idea of 'open' form, and also looking at musical settings of her work. I hope to meet some of you then. In the meantime, here are six things you might think about before we start the seminar on Tuesday...

 

'The winged Courser, like a gen’rous Horse / Shows most true Mettle when you check his course.' Alexander Pope (Essay in Criticism, 86-7)

In the quotation above, the poet Alexander Pope explores a paradox. Sometimes you have to rein something in to get the most out of it. Although he uses the example of a horse, he’s really offering this as a model for poetry. Form, and the constricting qualities of form, are what enable poets to get the most out of their words and ideas. ‘Open’ and ‘closed’ are two simple words often used to describe poetic form: an open form uses blank verse, or follow a very loose metrical scheme, whereas a closed form has a regular meter, or an obviously repeating pattern. Emily Dickinson is usually described as using a ‘closed’ form.

1. Make a list of the negative and positive connotations of the words ’open’ and ‘closed’.

Now read through Emily Dickinson’s poems 'I'm Nobody! Who are you?' , ‘There's a certain slant of light', and ‘Because I could not stop for Death’. How important is form and constraint in her work?

2. Write down any words or images in the poems which suggest enclosure or inwardness.

3. What kind of relationship is there between the form of her poems and their subjects?

It can often be useful to compare poets to help us understand how they are using forms. Reread ‘I’m Nobody? Who are you?’ and then read the first section of the poem ‘Song of Myself’ by Walt Whitman: http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/wwhitman/bl-ww-song-1.htm. Whitman was a contemporary of Dickinson’s, but whereas she decided not to publish her poetry, Whitman published, revised, and republished his work throughout his life.

4. What differences do you notice in the way the ‘I’ voice is represented in this section in comparison with Dickinson’s poem?

5. How would you compare their forms? How might this link to the content of their poetry?

Many composers have been drawn to the musical qualities of Dickinson’s work – she is one of the most set poets in the cano. Listen to the following setting of ‘Because I Could Not Stop for Death’ by the American composer Aaron Copland:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YU7dMzpe9XA (from 7.05)

Now compare this the American composer John Adams’ setting of the same poem as part of his piece Harmonium.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWZnUCpXcSs (first 10 minutes)

6. Which setting do you prefer and why?

March 15, 2012 at 6:31 PM Flag Quote & Reply

MrMarsden
Member
Posts: 8

Hi there,

looking forward to the seminar, Will. I followed the YouTube link, and I don't think 'Because I could not stop for death' is one of the 12 songs on the link? Did you mean another poem? Thanks.

March 16, 2012 at 7:31 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Hi Mr Marsen,

Thanks for your query. The movement is confusingly called 'The Chariot' by Copland, which is a word which doesn't even appear in the original poem, but it is still the same poem: it's the final movement of the 12 song-cycle.

Hope to speak to you soon in the seminar!

All best,

Will

March 20, 2012 at 2:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Helllo all - it's just gone 7, so I'm happy to declare the Dickinson seminar open for business. Is there anyone there?

Best,

Will

March 20, 2012 at 3:03 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Laurie Fitzgerald
Member
Posts: 14

Oh thank goodness I was beginning to worry I was in the wrong place phew! 

March 20, 2012 at 3:04 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Nice to meet you Laurie! Dickinson was somewhat of a recluse, so I think online seminars would have been just her thing. Have you read any Dickinson poetry before?

March 20, 2012 at 3:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Hi, Will I think members will join the discussion as and when they can. Some members also prefer just to read the discussion rather than post their thoughts.

--
March 20, 2012 at 3:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Gail
Member
Posts: 4

I'm listening to the John Adam's setting of 'Because I could not stop for Death' and find it more claustrophobic than Aaron Copland's, almost suffocating.  (I'm thinking in terms of 'open'and 'closed'.)

 

March 20, 2012 at 3:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Thanks Neil. :) Now that the seminar is open, it would be good to start by thinking about the words open and closed in a very general way. What kinds of positive or negative connotations do they have for anyone?

March 20, 2012 at 3:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Laurie Fitzgerald
Member
Posts: 14

Yes actually I'm doing her as part of my a level, the man you recently replied to Mr Marsden is a teacher of mine and he recommended the seminar so I thought I'd try it out. Dickinson whould love! online seminars and electronic commuication it would beat letters taking weeks to arrive and be recieved thats for sure.  

March 20, 2012 at 3:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Hello Gail! Claustrophia and suffocation are definitely two words we might assoicate with 'closed' form: they suggest restriction and compression. Do you find these in Dickinson's poem's themselves?

March 20, 2012 at 3:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

You pose a number of interesting questions, Will, about closed and open forms, and the role of form in expressing meaning. ILaurie, is this something you've looked at if you've been studying Dickinson's poems?


Perhaps Will you could take us through your own thoughts on openess and closedness in one of the poems you've selected? 

--
March 20, 2012 at 3:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

MrMarsden
Member
Posts: 8

Wow - big question! Open = exposed, vulnerable, but also open to new possibilities and experiences and hence able to move things (e.g. poetry?) forwards.

Closed = final, unchangeable, this can be good (don't have to worry what might happen when it's all over) but generally percieved to be bad? Anyone else?


March 20, 2012 at 3:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Laurie Fitzgerald
Member
Posts: 14

I think the restriction and compression is evident throughout her poetry. It seems to me her ideas had to almost be hidden within her from as they were so radical for her time. 

March 20, 2012 at 3:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

It's funny you bring up letters, Laurie. Dickinson never published her poems during her lifetime, but enclosed them in letters. The immediacy of an online forum (browser permitting!) might put Dickinson off a bit. This might suggested she saw the audience for her poetry being quite closed too (or limited/ controlled).

March 20, 2012 at 3:15 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

By the way, I notice that there have actually been over 250 views of this discussion already, so there must be a lot of quiet observers out there...Very appropriate for this most reclusive of poets.

--
March 20, 2012 at 3:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Laurie Fitzgerald
Member
Posts: 14

Neil : It's only something I've recenlty begun to look at we had previously been doing a lot of literal thematic analysis of Dickinson as opposed to form and structure in relation to her themes so this is all very new and Interesting.

March 20, 2012 at 3:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

MrMarsden
Member
Posts: 8

Hmmm... I guess lots of her poems take part inside buildings (i.e. enclosed spaces) which I hadn't thought of - she spends all of 'because I could not stop for death' in a carriage with the Grim Reaper!

March 20, 2012 at 3:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Jeffery
Member
Posts: 2

Hey, I was just wondering if you could tell us how you interpret 'There's a certain sland of light' ? It's one of Dickinson's most dark nature poems in her collection and I was wondering what it means to you?

March 20, 2012 at 3:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

MrMarsden
Member
Posts: 8

Great detective work Neil - come out, come out, wherever you are people!


March 20, 2012 at 3:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.