Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dickinson, Fascicle 16

--Here's a sample of a Dickinson poem in manuscript.

--Compare reading Dickinson poetry in the groupings she imagined herself and the poetry grouped by theme or in context with other poetry written by women of the time. How is this a different way of seeing her work?

--What does the grouping of the poems in this fascicle do to the individual poems? How do you think the poems relate to each other? What does the document itself say?

--The version available online offers examples of the variant lines that Dickinson included in the fascicles. What does including variants do to the meaning of the poem or your reading of the poetry more generally?


  1. The poems in Fascicle 16 kind of went along with the stereotype of women's poetry in the 1800's. They're all either about death, nature, or religion. Also the poems are from viewpoints that aren't her own. In the first poem, she imagines the Sun as her replacement eye and all the things she would get to see. In the second, she describes what a soul sees after death. In the third, she gives her life to God before she dies. The fourth poem describes watching someone die and knowing it's truth. In the fifth poem, she has a vision of her funeral right before she dies. The sixth poem describes the end of the world. The seventh is about how people don't really think about religion until they're about to die. The eighth poem describes nature from above. The ninth talks about a soul watching life go on after it has died. The tenth is a poem from God's point of view about being fearless. The final poem is written from God's point of view as he tries to win her over.

  2. I found that reading the poems with the variant lines was awfully confusing for me. It was a little unclear which lines were the "variant" version, and some of the poems had a rather large amount of lines that were changing back and forth. Poem 8 was especially challenging. There were so many variant lines, and one of them even had three variant words- dauntless, fearless and tranquil. Fearless and dauntless make sense. They're pretty synonymous. But tranquil? That pretty much changes the meaning entirely. So, I guess the variant lines just seemed a bit complicated for me. They detracted from the poetry, and since I'm not a huge poetry fan anyway keeping track of all the different versions of the poems made it even less fun.

  3. By grouping these poems together they form a narrative. It’s a story. The narrator is mortally injured in the first line and the rest of the bundle is their subsequent sickness, death, funeral, and afterlife. This story seems to present Dickinson’s feelings about religion and, specifically, about her belief in heaven. She won’t accept the existence of it until she sees it with her own “eye.”

  4. Grouping the poems, (in my opinion) made it more complicated to read. I think that keeping poetry in it's original state is imperative, especially if the writer is not alive to vouch for the changes made. Also, altering/extending/combining poems take away from each individual poem and it's ending statements. Lastly, sometimes poets are in different modes when they write, so combining several poems together, it gives a different feel to the poems, and gives out different emotions.

  5. I really enjoyed the varient readings of the poems. While I have been surprised at how modern her poems feel to me (I had never read much Emily Dickinson, but I had the preconceived notion that she would be stuffy—more like Longfellow than Whitman (or Stevens)), the variant readings really made her work feel relevant to me. One of my favorite poets, Jack Spicer (who wrote from the 1940s-'60s) would, when translating Lorca, attach footnotes to his poems that were supposed to be editorial remarks from Lorca (even though Lorca had been dead for a while). The footnotes were all terribly self-depreciating, but the play on the idea of always having a final edit in mind, the idea that the poem is still unfinished because it can't quite be worked into form, is really interesting (and fun) to me.

    Laura says that she, in particular, did not like the variant for poem #8 because its variant (between fearless/dauntless and tranquil) can completely change the reading of the poem, but to me, this is Dickinson capitalizing most on the opportunity of a variant word.

    The problem that I had was in the actual presentation of the variant word poems. How the website flipped back and forth was dizzying, and when there were two variable lines right next to each other, just reading the poem was difficult, and I had to separately type out the lines so that I could make sense of them.

  6. By reading Dickinson's work in her own layout we can truly understand the meaning she wanted her poems to give, and in what order those meanings were to be given. When we read Dickinson by context we looked at her poetry through the lens of typical poetic themes such as death, nature, and the role of mankind.

    Fascicle 16 provides us with her work as she wrote it, covering numerous topics. I think this way of reading Dickinson is better because it groups her various themes into one poetic unit, thereby linking her work more than Dickinson ever did outside of her self-published fascicles.
    The important role of the fascicle is, even though the poems don't all share themed similarities, they do all share the folio, presenting the poetry in a format it would be difficult not to appoint a chronological order to.
    In this mindset, the fascicle is telling about a narrator who is coming to the end of life, but is still filled with questions about mysteries of life, such as the way humans "stand on top of Things" (Dickinson, Fascicle 16:poem 8).