EDJE is an ongoing experiment in a mode of criticism that, instead of an explication of a text, offers something closer to a translation, or transformation, or reply to it.
The left column gives poems by Emily Dickinson, numbered according to R. W. Franklin’s edition of The Poems of Emily Dickinson (Harvard 1998). The right column is by me. To learn more about the project, click here.
168 Ah! Necromancy Sweet! Ah! Wizard erudite! Teach me the skill That I instill the pain Surgeons assuage in vain Nor herb of all the Plain Can heal!
The poem is a potion. Black blossoms infused Not in flesh subject to ministry But in the dimensionless cells Of the soul.
173 Except to Heaven--she is nought. Except for Angels--lone. Except to some wide-wandering Bee-- A flower superfluous--blown. Except for Winds--provincial-- Except for Butterflies Unnoticed as a single Dew That in the Acre lies-- The smallest housewife in the grass, Yet take her from the lawn And somebody else has lost the face That made Existence--Home--
The poem is, as always, an exercise in radical contraction. What is collective becomes exception: a single dew that on the acre lies. The poem is, as always, an exercise in estrangement. What makes existence have a face is a miniature housewife tumbled in the turf. The poem is, as always, an exercise in pillowed syllables that flair like a flower shivering its frilled vocabulary only to jerk a stop--blown.
142 Coccon above! Cocoon below! Stealthy cocoon why hide you so What all the world suspect? An hour, and gay on every tree Your secret, perched in extasy Defies imprisonment! An hour in chrysalis to pass-- The gay above the receding grass A Butterfly to go! The moment to interrogate, Then wiser than a "Surrogate," The Universe to know!
The whole showy shebang-- Magician kitsch Why hide the secret, perched Above and below Two up the sleeves, Another drawn from the baggy trousers? Everyone understands. There is an hour of metamorphosis: An ecstatic hour When everything recedes at the speed of light. No surrogate, no gimcrack divine, Can take or improve our knowledge.