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June 29, 2008


ladies: the poem is about spotting a snake in the grass. dickinson is writing in the late 19th century whereby the sexual extrapolations you assert are highly, highly unlikely. if you want to get off while reading poetry read sharon olds or allen ginsberg, but leave ms. dickinson out of your mid-life fantasies.

A Narrow fellow is one of my favorite Dickenson poems. I've argued with others about "Several of Nature's people . . ." and wonder who others think they are.
Thanks Sally.
-- sdh

If the snake with his shaft parting the grass isn't a highly sexual image, I don't know what is. One of the most surprising moments in this blatantly phallic poem occurs when the author announces that she was once a barefoot boy. There are other instances of deliberate gender confusion in the Dickinson oeuvre.

The knowledge that her initials, an abbrevation for "editor," now stand for "erectile dysfunction," would have bemused the poet, no?

Conventional view is that "Nature's people" are animals. What thinkest thou?

Stacey- Great question and one that shows the imaginative freedom Dickinson’s poem allows simply by the nature of its reticence, the fact that she didn’t list specific “people.” That’s part of what makes a good poem great, right? It offers enough terrific detail to keep us present yet leaves portals open for our individual experiences and imaginations to enter as participants, not just observers. And, as in all great works, from there the poem continues to work on a number of levels. The first, where it has to work, is the literal, whatever the literal consists of for a given poet, and of course, Dickinson’s does. Readers share the stun of her encounter. Then, like a ripple from a stone, different associations and resonances occur. That’s a poem’s power and pleasure. And if an association is there and carries throughout a particular reading, then it is there, culturally and humanly alive.

In this case, on the literal, and I too would love to hear other ideas, I think of Nature’s people as those other creatures that people her writing, most prominently birds, insects, the occasional deer, but also the elephant and tiger, and who am I to limit her imaginative forays, if elephant or tiger, maybe specific people she knew. Well, I’ll end but thanks for the opportunity to think further. And what do you think they be?

to jj: as i have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, ed had a most active erotic life -- probably more active than most of us. Her famous so-called master letters, for example, are extremely well known, crazily hot, yet must be unfamiliar to someone who chastises "sexual extrapolations" -- which actually sounds like something i'll suggest the next time Mistress and i listen to "Venus in Furs." also, take a few minutes to research emily's role in the affair between her brother austin and mabel loomis todd.

Morns like these we parted,
Noons like these she rose...

What is it exactly that parted? What is it that rose? In fact, could "rose" also in a deflected way allude to something (Shakespeare called it "nothing," as in much ado) that has petals kind of like a rose? No, not in the late 19th century when people wore bloomers!

Is there a way to subscribe? It doesn't seem to be working.

Help is only ever a click away...

hey i think that is a good idea keep up the good work

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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