Unreal Nature

January 20, 2017

What Would the Either Be?

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:26 am

… this nakedness is striking.

This is from ‘Emily Dickinson’ (1933) found in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore edited by Patricia C. Willis (1986):

… [Mabel Loomis Todd] presents Emily Dickinson as that rare thing, the truly unartificial spirit — flashing like an animal, with strength or dismay.

Emily Dickinson was reason’s pupil but her technique was intuitive, and in that matter she was “wayward.” Study which she bestowed on her poems related only to a choice of words that would sharpen the meaning, we are told.

… She was not usual, but her need was the universal human one, never disguised. She saw no comfort in refusing to question that about which she wished to be sure. “Are you certain there is another life? When overwhelmed to know,” she said, “I fear that few are sure.” And later:

The spirit lasts, but in what mode —
Below, the body speaks,
But as the spirit furnishes —
Apart it never talks.
The music in the violin
Does not emerge alone
But arm in arm with touch, yet touch
Alone is not a tune.
The spirit lurks within the flesh
Like tides within the sea
That makes the water live; estranged
What would the either be?

She had “a habit of discounting disappointment by anticipating it.” The frankness with which in a letter — as above — she speaks verse as if it were prose, to the one to whom she writes, is strange. In these days of composite intellect and mock-modest impersonalism, this nakedness is striking. If our capacity for suffering is the necessary antithesis of our capacity for joy, we would — with Emily Dickinson — not wish to have it less. “Though I think I bend,” she said, “something straightens me.”

My most recent previous post from Moore’s book is here.

-Julie

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