Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams

I’ve been reading some anthologies of poetry lately and I thought I would reproduce the poems that really struck me. My experience of reading an anthology of a certain poet is that four out of five of the poems “miss” but that lucky number 5 really floors you. This is especially true for Thomas Johnson’s Final Harvest, a five hundred-odd selection of Emily Dickinson’s poems. The best way to read it seems to be to jump to the poems mentioned in the introduction- but even then, a lot of poems fail to make an impression. However, by doing so I came across this poem:

The soul that hath a Guest
Doth seldom go abroad –
Diviner Crowd at Home –
Obliterate the need –

And Courtesy forbid
A Host’s departure when
Upon Himself be visiting
The Emperor of Men –

Emily Dickinson 277 (674)

This is quite simply one of the most clever poems I have come across.

Now for a bizarre (and bizarrely pleasing) poem:

Dans Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:

‘I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!’
If I admire my arms, my face
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

William Carlos Williams

The succession of images is just so ridiculous that it’s hilarious. The last line really knocks you out.


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