Quotes about Emily Dickinson
21 Sourced Quotes
I'll tell you something. Once I was very fond of a poem by Emily Dickinson or somebody. I only remember one line of it, but it goes, 'The soul selects her own society.' I used to tell it to everybody. Once I quoted it to a friend of mine, and he said, 'Maybe, but the body gets thrown into bed with the goddamnedest people.
Counter to the avalanche of messages from our culture, I recognize celibacy not as negation but as a joyous turning inward. Inebriate of air am I, / And debauchee of dew, wrote Emily Dickinson, most promiscuous of celibates. Opulence in asceticism, Marianne Moore wrote, a phrase that celebrates the solitary life even as it provides a sound bite for saving the planet.
Art has always been my salvation. And my gods are Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Mozart. I believe in them with all my heart. And when Mozart is playing in my room, I am in conjunction with something I can't explain — I don't need to. I know that if there's a purpose for life, it was for me to hear Mozart. Or if I walk in the woods and I see an animal, the purpose of my life was to see that animal. I can recollect it, I can notice it. I'm here to take note of. And that is beyond my ego, beyond anything that belongs to me, an observer, an observer.
Sappho is a great poet because she is a lesbian, which gives her erotic access to the Muse. Sappho and the homosexual-tending Emily Dickinson stand alone above women poets, because poetry's mystical energies are ruled by a hierach requiring the sexual subordination of her petitioners. Women have achieved more as novelists than as poets because the social novel operates outside the ancient marriage of myth and eroticism.
Even the best critical writing on Emily Dickinson underestimates her. She is frightening. To come to her directly from Dante, Spenser, Blake, and Baudelaire is to find her sadomasochism obvious and flagrant. Birds, bees, and amputated hands are the dizzy stuff of this poetry. Dickinson is like the homosexual cultist draping himself in black leather and chains to bring the idea of masculinity into aggressive visibility.
Yet what representative trio do not make a mad trio? Blake, Mrs. Aphra Behn, Zeno - not a typical but a representative threesome... Things do not go in simple pairs. Poetry is not a case of Shakespeare and Marlowe, Shelley and Keats, Wordsworth and Coleridge, Bridges and Masefield, Emily Dickinson and T. S. Eliot. Poetry is some awkward trio - like Caedmon, Oliver Goldsmith, Enda St. Vincent Millay. So with the novel.
Because of the distrust that has grown from our experience, we are very careful whom we welcome. We are selective in our companions, we look suspiciously those who sit beside us in a bar and start talking to us: is he crazy? What's he up to? we wonder. The city becomes a desert. With groups of friends who are nobody else's friends. As Emily Dickinson, the reclusive poet, once wrote: The soul selects its own society, then shuts the door.
Craft is something you learn by studying models. When a student asks, what is a good book about traditional iambic verse, The Collected Poems of Ben Jonson. What is an excellent book about free verse? The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams. What is a good book about short line in ballad metre? The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.
Richard Chase declares, "No great poet has written so much bad verse as Emily Dickinson." He blames the Victorian cult of little women for the fact that "two thirds of her work" is seriously flawed: "Her coy and oddly childish poems of nature and female friendship are products of a time when one of the careers open to women was perpetual childhood." Dickinson's sentimental feminine poems remain neglected by embarrassed scholars. I would maintain, however, that her poetry is a closed system of sexual reference and that the mawkish poems are designed to dovetail with those of violence and suffering.
Emily Dickinson is the female Sade, and her poems are the prison dreams of a self-incarcerated, sadomasochistic imaginist. When she is rescued from American Studies departments and juxtaposed with Dante and Baudelaire, her barbarities and diabolical acts of will become glaringly apparent. Dickinson inherits through Blake the rape cycle of The Faerie Queene. Blake and Spenser are her allies in helping pagan Coleridge defeat Protestant Wordsworth.