Goby’s Journal: Reading Emily Dickinson.

Began the day, inspecting the garden, reading Emily D… I’ve been systematically reading the whole of the collected poems, beginning to end. I skip around, read back and forth, but always keep to the sequential reading as well. Today, 564-603… 1862. A reference to Antietam… (Scarlet Maryland) in #562. She follows the news, and fuses intimate domestic scenes with distant events, the way she does with cosmic, biblical, religious references, deflating the latter, and casting a miraculous light on the everyday. Though there’s no deflation of what she has learns of the war, or human tragedy. #564 made my brain explode. I read with a dictionary at my side, and can only cover a half dozen or so a day. I write marginal notes in tiny letters with a mechanical pencil. The binding has gone the way of all impermanent things. Entropy everywhere. I should buy a new copy before I accidentally drop this on the floor, and all the pages scatter–hopeless to return them to order.


Thinking about how she follows the news… how, no matter how devoted one might be, one can only read to the last page. There’s an end to a newspaper or magazine. What would she have made of the internet? There is no end to the internet, or Facebook. One goes on clicking and clicking, until the clicks are what the ticking of a clock was for those who lived when there were still clocks that ticked… the sound of one one’s life being drained away.

Nature is a haunted house…

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In a letter, Emily Dickinson wrote: Nature–is a haunted house–but Art–a house that tries to be haunted.

@Poetry tweeted this quote, and I can’t get it out of my mind. Haunted–by what? A house that tries to be haunted, would seem to be empty–in need of being filled with… what it lacks, but nature has. Has, but as something which is and is not there. Nature’s house we did not contruct, but find ourselves within it. Are we, then, that which haunts it? And the house of Art, a strange sort of house, though we build it, we cannot dwell in it, as we do the house of nature. In our very building of it, it pushes away, keeps us outside, with every word we add, with ever new stroke of the brush, and though what we would render is within, what emerges is yet another surface, and other wall, another door, though we imagine it to be open, but cannot enter.

In nature’s house, we wait for death, and paint the house that refuses death entrance, and us… unless (ah, the paradox!) we empty ourselves of the death that haunts us, and enter, not as ourselves, but only with the emptiness of what we have become, when we have ceased becoming.