Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Small Poems

Emily Dickenson wrote small poems. Hundreds of them. She lived a small life. A short life, lived mostly on the same small piece of land. She never wrote about great battles or interesting adventures or fascinating things she had seen because she never saw much. Instead she wrote about life. A small life lived by a small woman who saw small things.

Then why, after a hundred years, do we still read these small poems?

I read my sentence steadily,
Reviewed it with my eyes,
To see that I made no mistake
In its extremest clause, --

The date, and manner of the shame;
And then the pious form
That "God have mercy" on the soul
The jury voted him.

I made my soul familiar
With her extremity,
That at the last it should not be
A novel agony,

But she and Death, acquainted,
Meet tranquility as friends,
Salute and pass without a hint --
And there the matter ends.


  1. I have to admit I've never been exposed to her work, but based on your assessment I'd say that the reason people still read her is because they KNOW the small things. It resonates with people. Sometimes grand adventures are fun to think about, but unattainable.

  2. Poetry's never been my thing, but I always appreciated ED's dark side and succinct nature.

  3. As "small" as her life may have been in mortal and physical terms, the life of her mind was abundantly huge. She says as much in her poem "I never saw a Moor."