Ah! Necromancy Sweet! Ah! Wizard erudite!

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.


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.

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.

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.