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This is my letter to the world - Emily Dickinson

Together with A Word dropped carelessly on a page, this poem is an example of Metapoetry – poetry that is aware of itself as a poem; how it is constructed and why it is being composed. The Thought - Fox by Ted Hughes is another good example. 

People write for a variety of reasons, but poetry tends to be an expression of intense personal and intimate urges.  Dickinson’s prodigious outpouring of more than 1700 poems over a period of about 25 years demonstrates a need to express her private observations, reflections, aspirations, passions and fears. It is her solitude and asceticism (life of self-denial) that allows or perhaps dictates her need to probe the inner depths of life.  

W.B. Yeats once wrote; "When we quarrel with others, we make rhetoric; When we quarrel with ourselves, we make poetry".

Other writers providing their reasons include:

Franz Kafta’s -  Writing should be an axe for the frozen sea inside us.

Poetry is the expression of deeply felt emotions or feelings characterised by an intensity of thought and consciousness of thought patterns.

Poetry is Personal — an attempt to capture the experience of significant moments of life.

Poetry is central to each person’s core existence—of unique value to the fully realised life.

Poetry celebrates the joys and mysteries of existence.

Poetry demonstrates the ineffability of the human condition; language’s inability to bridge the chasm between our individual existences, revealing the inescapable fact of our aloneness

Wordsworth  “All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”.

Emily Dickinson made a wilful, deliberate and determined resolution to retreat from society and commune with nature, yet she yearns for acknowledgement and recognition.   It was from personal choice; "Some keep the Sabbath going to church - I keep it , staying home." 

Some critics contend that she wrote, as consolation, out of sheer egotism - a desire to be recognised, remembered after death. 

As Sylvia Plath later would use her writing as therapy; by a frank and full admission of her pain she is hoping for some release of tension and an exorcism of the demons that haunt her, some of Dickinson’s poems, intensely emotional, yet never dissolving into sentimentality, reveal a troubled soul searching for understanding and acceptance. 

Another writer who used writing as an attempt to address inner turmoil is Zelda, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, commenting on the disintegration of their marriage:

"To right myself, I write myself."   Writing is an escape into the depths of my imagination." 

 Perhaps Dickinson is attempting what Franz Kafta – would later describe as “Writing should be an axe for the frozen sea inside us.” 

 

Her initial declamation is followed by a peevish sulk or an understandable natural feeling of indignant hurt - slight, revealing her need for acknowledgement if not acceptance:


This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,--

Even though she voluntarily withdraws from society, she feels indignant that it seems to function without noticing her. Her petulant accusatory claim that no one ever communicates with her indicates that she begrudges or resents her invisibility.  But then it was she who cut off society.

Later the tone modulates from a pained pout, petulant, resentful or an aggrieved one to a conciliatory, reasoning one and ends with a plea or supplication for understanding.

The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;

Nature – like God, is an intangible force.  The juxtaposition of contradictory adjectives, tender and majesty suggests her affinity for it.  

For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

You can view a reading of the poem @:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qP_b82juGXI

Dickinson provides a contrast between human society; complicated, complex and judgmental; and Nature, which is more simplified, “tender” yet majestic.  To Dickinson, nature can be a benevolent force. 

Dickinson evokes a  neediness through blunt, direct self-expression – she enjoys her solitude but was a suffocated feeler.  Inside there was churning — a desire for acknowledgement if not acceptance.


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