An American Poet

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

It’s Emily Dickinson’s 189th birthday! Especially notable now to one attempting to create a worthwhile poem. And because for years I studied her poetry. She’s one of the greatest writers ever and like many famous writers a most complex individual.

Years ago, while on a business trip to New York City, after completing my work, I found myself free for several days before heading home to California. Thinking about Dickinson, I rented a car, and drove to Amherst hoping to gain insight into the poet’s life, creativity, and talent.

In Amherst, after touring the University, I managed to find and join a group about to go through the Dickinson mansion. The College owns the Dickinson place and allows instructors and students to live there, but reserves as open to tourists half that building. The rooms, hallways, stairs, and personal artifacts are preserved from Emily’s adulthood.

My visit there happened during the earliest days of internet, way before Emily’s work finally went online. Then, while visiting the Harvard Bookstore, I discovered a hard-bound set of volumes containing facismilies of all Dickinson’s known original poems. The collected poems, shown handwritten, illustrate how over the years her poetic style developed and eventually how her handwriting began to change. I was and still am fascinated by those volumes, they’re as interesting as the poet herself.

On Dickinson’s birthday, recalling my trip to Amherst and re-thinking her poems and unique style, this wannabe poet feels reassured. Poetry writing is a daunting process because of the requirements related to structure, rhythm, and sound. Many fine examples exist that meet those writing demands.

As usual in learning, and maybe especially with a topic as complex as writing poems, it would help me to become informed by a hands-on “how-to” education. I’m scrambling to read books on the topic even while attempting to create a poem.

Anyway now on Emily’s birthday, I have an early draft of an original poem, and today a friend will read it. I’m timid with trepidation but one must start somewhere. Otherwise, like Dickinson, my first and maybe future poems could wind up in a drawer.

Dear Friends: Writing and linking stanzas are powerful in searching for truth. Diana

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