Monday, March 12, 2012

The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Two (Dickinson)

Thanks to all of you who memorized last week's poem with me! I've noticed some wonderful comments coming in under the post. I love, in particular, what Lois P. Jones said about how if "One Heart" were a calligraphy "the birds would be a fine press of ink fading into the tips of freedom." Please continue to leave your comments about "One Heart" under The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem One post. If you are new to the blog, you might also want to look at that first post to find out what The Mnemosyne Weekly is all about.

Our poem this week is by Emily Dickinson, and it is certain to make your brain and your toes and the tips of your ears tingle. Enjoy!

He fumbles at your spirit

He fumbles at your spirit
As players at the keys
Before they drop full music on;
He stuns you by degrees,

Prepares your brittle substance
For the ethereal blow,
By fainter hammers, further heard,
Then nearer, then so slow

Your breath has time to straighten,
Your brain to bubble cool, --
Deals one imperial thunderbolt
That scalps your naked soul.

*Note* When posting, quoting from, or otherwise using poetry online or in any format, please be sure to honor the “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry.”


  1. Love Emily, especially" I died for Beauty"and "A bird came down the walk" It seems to me that more Americans should know of her artistry. She is at the top of my list!

  2. Those are great ones, June! I wish I had time to memorize about 30 of her poems. Maybe over time --

  3. Emily Dickinson makes me uncomfortable. And I mean that in the best of ways. All week I've felt unsettled, off kilter, slanted even, as I carried these words around with me.

    Once again, I was struck by Dickinson's gift for concretizing the abstract (brittle substance, scalps your naked soul), and, once again I was forced to see the world in a new way.

    This is the kind of discomfort that stimulates growth and new understanding. Dare I say I may have even developed new neural pathways through which to stream these sublime, tormented words.

  4. This poem captures such powerful imagery. Its rattled my cage for certain!
    Scott Lutz

  5. So true! Another thing that delights me about Dickinson is that her word choices consistently surprise me. Word by word, I feel like I am leaving one room and entering another. That's a feeling I usually feel line by line with other poets. What a surprise it is, for instance, to turn the corner of "Your brain" to discover the word "bubble." And it is another surprise entirely to discover the word "cool" immediately following that. No matter how many times I read the poem, these usages seem strange and unfamiliar. When I interviewed Ed Hirsch for Tiferet Talk last year, he spoke of how great poetry defamiliarizes language. Of this, Emily is the master!