Heavy Hitters #2: Emily Dickinson v Walt Whitman

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I think reading Dickinson as claustrophobic is lending too much credence to the legend. The whole universe is visible in her lines.

aerosmith: the acid house years (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Wednesday, 24 November 2010 23:52 (nine years ago) link

No, not for having bigger balls, but for having a greater breadth of vision, a bigger palette, a broader canvas, more effects, and more subject matter, more things to say about more aspects of life.

I agree that ED takes the mundane and instills it with mystery, but that seems to be the whole of her art. She's a miniaturist, able to suggest much with a few, tiny strokes, but this ultimately limits her, because the thing she suggests is ultimately always the same thing. No matter where her poem begins, it generally ends in the same region, saying much the same few truths. They are big truths, but not enough to support a big body of work.

Aimless, Thursday, 25 November 2010 00:46 (nine years ago) link

I think reading Dickinson as claustrophobic is lending too much credence to the legend.

I don't think so. I was never that interested in the biographical slant on her work. I think that claustrophobic feel can easily be found in the work itself.

_Rudipherous_, Thursday, 25 November 2010 05:06 (nine years ago) link

I don't know why but I prefer Whitman. Very lovable poetry although I guess this is true of Dickinson. True story: I was put in a remedial science class in high school and it was so easy I finished the class two weeks early and spent some spring afternoons reading Dickinson next to a grassy hill near my school.

jeevves, Thursday, 25 November 2010 10:27 (nine years ago) link

Looking back there is some irony in that, I think.

jeevves, Thursday, 25 November 2010 10:27 (nine years ago) link

The Impossible Marriage

The bride disappears. After twenty minutes of searching
we discover her in the cellar, vanishing against a pillar
in her white gown and her skin's original pallor.
When we guide her back to the altar, we find the groom
in his slouch hat, open shirt, and untended beard
withdrawn to the belltower with the healthy young sexton
from whose comradeship we detach him with difficulty.
O never in all the meetinghouses and academies
of compulsory Democracy and free-thinking Calvinism
will these poets marry! -- O pale, passionate
anchoret of Amherst! O reticent kosmos of Brooklyn!

-- Donald Hall

alimosina, Friday, 26 November 2010 01:11 (nine years ago) link

didn't someone also write a science fiction novel about that

thomp, Friday, 26 November 2010 12:49 (nine years ago) link

what a wonderful little poem!!

aerosmith: the acid house years (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Friday, 26 November 2010 12:57 (nine years ago) link

Glad that was posted - guess it's a bit of a hoary chestnut that you can get pretty much any 20thC U.S. poetry by mixing in different amounts of Dickinson and Whitman, but ...

etc, Sunday, 28 November 2010 00:33 (nine years ago) link

Unhesitatingly Dickinson. I don't much like Whitman: if I pick out what I don't like formally, I can say the long lines, repetition as rhythm, the adjectival pile-ups, the biblical-prophetic diction. Thin on sharp images too, maybe? I think of him as just listing stuff he sees. Anyway, I guess it's not really that at bottom: he just has a sensibility or vision of the world that I don't much care for. All that vigorous, open, vatic energy just comes over like bombast and hectoring if y're not on side early.

Dickinson, though, there's lots of my favourite things: precise, elliptical, spare. Surprising: the best of the poems have nothing obvious – single unexpected overfraught words, a jump sideways from one thought to another, strange images. tbqh I don't know her work well enough to say much useful about her: I read her in short bursts every few months, never had a full-on obsession (in fact find her a bit samey if I read too much at once, obvs a flip-side of the hyper-focus mentioned upthread, a virtue in general). But her knots of anxiety + delight, apprehension of the world, I like that.

(This is HH poll 5, by the way (Yeats/Shaks, Chaucer/Milton, Stevens/Frost, Donne/Blake))

portrait of velleity (woof), Monday, 29 November 2010 00:43 (nine years ago) link

i am probably a lot more like whitman, in the way i write, and the way i think, and act, and approach the world, undisciplined, overenthusiastic, obvious, yes, hectoring, i wish i was more like dickinson, who is razor-sharp, restrained, cryptic, a master concealer.

max, Monday, 29 November 2010 00:54 (nine years ago) link

haha

look at it, pwn3d, made u look at my peen/vadge (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 29 November 2010 00:57 (nine years ago) link

I'm Wallace Stevens.

look at it, pwn3d, made u look at my peen/vadge (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 29 November 2010 00:57 (nine years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Tuesday, 30 November 2010 00:01 (nine years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Wednesday, 1 December 2010 00:01 (nine years ago) link

Aha! The prevailing aethestic prevails.

Aimless, Wednesday, 1 December 2010 02:46 (nine years ago) link

yay

look at it, pwn3d, made u look at my peen/vadge (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 1 December 2010 03:00 (nine years ago) link

dang. I thought about voting whitman but ended up abstaining — sorta wish I had now, just to make it less of a bloodbath

'The Road'(a hundred less-than signs)'Taken' (bernard snowy), Wednesday, 1 December 2010 15:30 (nine years ago) link

one month passes...

lol ilx is full of teen goths huh?

plax (ico), Thursday, 13 January 2011 18:01 (nine years ago) link

lol

Are you anticipating an end to the Age of Stupid? (Drugs A. Money), Friday, 14 January 2011 05:56 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHt4IEyYuyQ&feature=plcp

once i went to a 24-hr marathon reading of emily dickinson held at a catholic school, it was kind of like this

j., Sunday, 26 August 2012 05:43 (seven years ago) link

nine months pass...

for all your ¿racist whitman? controversy needs:

http://wgntv.com/2013/05/18/student-deems-assignment-offensive-may-fail-class/
opera student won't sing whitman for class concert

http://whitmanarchive.org/criticism/current/encyclopedia/entry_44.html
from walt whitman: an encyclopedia

http://www.conjunctions.com/archives/c29-nm.htm
nathaniel mackey on whitman

j., Thursday, 30 May 2013 18:34 (seven years ago) link

wait this is a thing?

the bitcoin comic (thomp), Thursday, 30 May 2013 20:25 (seven years ago) link

i dunno, i saw it going around today. there's a bit on the atlantic.

seems like not the best place to take a stand. but it also seems odd for a disagreement between a graduate student and a professor to devolve into 'you must do the work' / 'i refuse', so i wonder if it's not something more complicated / local / private.

j., Thursday, 30 May 2013 21:16 (seven years ago) link

kinda think this kid is a complete idiot tbh

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Wednesday, 5 June 2013 00:49 (seven years ago) link

i wonder if he got his F.

j., Wednesday, 5 June 2013 03:46 (seven years ago) link

I am leaving this tab open on my phone so I can squint at it less deliriously tomorrow on my way to the radio station; I love a poetry thread with torturously conflicted aerosmith posts & I am very patchy with these guys. a lot of what Dickinson I've read has either been through or after being spoonfed it, regurgitated, in Anne Carson. me & my friend are reading poetry aloud to each other sometimes, & I think that's a good way to hear poems that can seem heavier or more serious to me, which is true of anything older, thoughI guess less true of these guys than some others

daft on the causes of punk (schlump), Wednesday, 5 June 2013 06:57 (seven years ago) link

oh no, wait, it's Bronte in Carson

carry on

daft on the causes of punk (schlump), Wednesday, 5 June 2013 06:59 (seven years ago) link

dickinson is a totally singular miracle, images about death and life at the same time, unostentatiously ultraspare, invents her own weird typography that's more useful than cummings' (or, well, someone invents it; who cares), so full of loss even when she's happy, hilarious, fractal in the sense that she sees and explains the cosmos in her bees, is w melville/twain/lincoln up on 19c literature's rushmore. whitman, i dunno. i don't like life as much as him and i wish he'd get out of my face about it. that astronomer poem enrages me. he fit right into that levi's commercial. i like the poem aero posted upthread about the live-oak/the isolated self, but we are inversions: it's WW whom i admire when i'm at my best and ED who takes me. i mean who isn't trapped in a coffin? walt whitman, probably.

the white queen and her caustic judgments (difficult listening hour), Wednesday, 5 June 2013 13:40 (seven years ago) link

I've struggled with Whitman more strenuously than with any other American poet. Bet he'd love to wrastle with me.

The only time I really loved him was reading "Out of the Cradle..." about ten years ago in a poetry class I taught.

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 5 June 2013 13:43 (seven years ago) link

i am probably a lot more like whitman, in the way i write, and the way i think, and act, and approach the world, undisciplined, overenthusiastic, obvious, yes, hectoring, i wish i was more like dickinson, who is razor-sharp, restrained, cryptic, a master concealer.

― max, Sunday, November 28, 2010

haha max, when we finally meet, I expect to find the razor-sharp, restrained, cryptic, master concealer you are on ILX.

A deeper shade of lol (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 5 June 2013 13:45 (seven years ago) link

it's a kind of gimmick but it almost always kills me when the dash ends a poem: simultaneously conveys an ending and an incompletion. so with something like this one--where suffering is very close and familiar but may be joy after all, where as with the french revolution it is too early to tell--it's both a chill and a relief to topple into all that spacious uncertainty in the second after she goes quiet:

They say that "Time assuages" -
Time never did assuage -
An actual suffering strengthens
As Sinews do, with age -

Time is a Test of Trouble -
But not a Remedy
If such it prove, it prove too
There was no Malady -

the white queen and her caustic judgments (difficult listening hour), Wednesday, 5 June 2013 13:58 (seven years ago) link

yall need to read ww's 'specimen days'

j., Wednesday, 5 June 2013 19:01 (seven years ago) link

four weeks pass...

man dlh otm about Dickinson

my super-power is to turn into a bowling ball (Drugs A. Money), Thursday, 4 July 2013 02:52 (six years ago) link

or, well, someone invents it; who cares

hee

the bitcoin comic (thomp), Thursday, 4 July 2013 16:22 (six years ago) link

thats such a nice thing to say, al, thank you

max, Friday, 5 July 2013 02:27 (six years ago) link

This seems like an impossible decision to make and I don't think I could have voted.

Is it a vote for macrocosm vs microcosm, big vs small? But then both big and small are good. Perhaps Whitman never did small.

Is it a vote for close-knit form or wide open form? But then both are good. And Dickinson's type of close-knit form is miles away from Frost, or Hardy, or Larkin, to the point where she almost wouldn't fit into an anthology called 'people who use close-knit forms'.

Is it a vote, then, for how well each poet did big, or did small, how well each one did their respective job? But then Whitman is one of the best poets of 'the big' and Dickinson one of the best poets of 'the small'. They both did their jobs well.

cardamon, Saturday, 13 July 2013 22:32 (six years ago) link

Also it is very upsetting to read Whitman in light of Hart Crane. It makes you realise that Whitman opens a door that Hart Crane was trying to go through and he died before he could.

cardamon, Saturday, 13 July 2013 22:33 (six years ago) link

i think every time you read one of the items in whitman's endless lists, he's doing the small - it's part of his view of the big that this be so

this comes out particularly well in 'specimen days' because the memorandum/journal format focuses his style of rendering the small so that you can see how modest a detail merits observation and recording for him

this is probably the flip side of the magnitude of what dickinson finds in her 'small'

j., Sunday, 14 July 2013 04:03 (six years ago) link

feels like it's more about Whitman's attempt at absolute clarity, with Dickinson's propensity for obliquity. Both of them were as enormous as universes, but Dickinson had the amazing ability to summarize the universe in wry aphorisms, whereas with Whitman, it was almost like poetry wasn't worth the effort if he couldn't be a supernova...*

the next night we ate Wale (Drugs A. Money), Sunday, 14 July 2013 08:19 (six years ago) link

*I'm full of shit, I haven't really read much of either. It's likely that many of you may feel slightly insulted that I even felt the need to point this out...

the next night we ate Wale (Drugs A. Money), Sunday, 14 July 2013 08:20 (six years ago) link

No, otm I think

cardamon, Sunday, 14 July 2013 13:02 (six years ago) link

Quite telling that Whitman said the only English poet he thought was big enough to fit America was 'Milton, perhaps'

Meanwhile Dickinson read lots of the Metaphysical poets, George Herbert etc IIRC

cardamon, Sunday, 14 July 2013 13:05 (six years ago) link

I'm "wife" -- I've finished that --
That other state --
I'm Czar -- I'm "Woman" now --
It's safer so --

How odd the Girl's life looks
Behind this soft Eclipse --
I think that Earth feels so
To folks in Heaven -- now --

This being comfort -- then
That other kind -- was pain --
But why compare?
I'm "Wife"! Stop there!

first I think it's time I kick a little verse! (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 14 July 2013 13:05 (six years ago) link

i think i am going to buy the collected emily dickinson today. my volume of emily dickinson poems is old and full of semi-colons instead of dashes

Treeship, Sunday, 14 July 2013 14:36 (six years ago) link

affectionate, haughty, electrical,

j., Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:56 (six years ago) link

both r kinda repetitive/coulda used an editor

I think I like Whitman more because he feels closer to contemporary language + was formative in my learning to read and appreciate longer poems

Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Saturday, 27 July 2013 15:04 (six years ago) link

Dickinson got editors...who replaced the dashes with commas and semicolons.

first I think it's time I kick a little verse! (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 27 July 2013 15:07 (six years ago) link

t Alfred that was a joke sry

Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Saturday, 27 July 2013 15:08 (six years ago) link

it's funny, I like dashes a lot but I really can't get worked up about that particular bit of literary infamy—the sheer frequency of punctuation Dickinson (imo) forces you to relearn the "meaning" of those particular scribbles as you read her.

(... altho I will grant that the dashes make a more striking first impression.)

Excelsior twilight. Harpsichord wind through the trees. (bernard snowy), Saturday, 27 July 2013 15:14 (six years ago) link

I'm a common reader of poetry. When you say ironic, I think:

Henry was programmed for happiness.
What happened O, O bloody friends?
Hoho, heehee.

alimosina, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 01:07 (three years ago) link

there once was a man from nantucket

Treeship, Wednesday, 5 April 2017 01:36 (three years ago) link

What a lovely thread.

the world's little sunbeam (in orbit), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 13:36 (three years ago) link

yeah i quoted that first whitman bit upthread that aerosmith quoted in a text message and got a <3

The times they are a changing, perhaps (map), Wednesday, 5 April 2017 18:59 (three years ago) link

http://www.musicboxfilms.com/a-quiet-passion-movies-153.php#overview

alimosina, Wednesday, 12 April 2017 17:01 (three years ago) link

Sight & Sounds gave it a good write-up.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 12 April 2017 18:10 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

“Nature is a haunted house--but Art--a house that tries to be haunted.”

Treeship, Tuesday, 16 May 2017 02:48 (three years ago) link

Going to heaven!
I don't know when,
Pray do not ask me how,--
Indeed, I'm too astonished
To think of answering you!
Going to heaven!--
How dim it sounds!
And yet it will be done
As sure as flocks go home by night
Unto the shepherd's arm!

Perhaps you're going too!
Who knows?
If you should get there first,
Save just a little place for me
Close to the two I lost!
The smallest "robe" will fit me,
And just a bit of "crown";
For you know we do not mind our dress
When we are going home.

I'm glad I don't believe it,
For it would stop my breath,
And I'd like to look a little more
At such a curious earth!
I am glad they did believe it
Whom I have never found
Since the mighty autumn afternoon
I left them in the ground.

difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 16 May 2017 03:01 (three years ago) link

magnificent and terrifying

Treeship, Tuesday, 16 May 2017 03:03 (three years ago) link

Watch the movie.

the Rain Man of nationalism. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 16 May 2017 03:04 (three years ago) link

terrifying

1862:

You cannot put a Fire out --
A Thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a Fan --
Upon the slowest Night --

You cannot fold a Flood --
And put it in a Drawer --
Because the Winds would find it out --
And tell your Cedar Floor --

difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 16 May 2017 06:11 (three years ago) link

I many times thought Peace had come
When Peace was far away --
As Wrecked Men -- deem they sight the Land --
At Centre of the Sea --

And struggle slacker -- but to prove
As hopelessly as I --
How many the fictitious Shores --
Before the Harbor be --

difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 16 May 2017 06:14 (three years ago) link

Love those Dickinson poems. I don't think Whitman poems work so well in small doses. I guess I think Dickinson might be the better poet, but Whitman means more to me personally. I remember being on summer break during college, staying with my grandparents, not knowing many people my own age in the area, and Whitman was kind of like a companion to me. It's hokey as hell, but I used to sometimes sit out in the woods behind their house with "Leaves of Grass". Dickinson's poems are like finely-cut gems, whereas Whitman's are like big woolly sweaters. No doubt there's a lot of hocus pocus in Whitman, something I'm sure Dickinson's austere gimlet eye could have skewered deftly, but it's deeply comforting hocus pocus nonetheless.

o. nate, Friday, 19 May 2017 00:44 (three years ago) link

four months pass...

i like it when she's ambitious:

Such are the inlets of the mind—-
His outlets-— would you see
Ascend with me the eminence
Of immortality—-

(tho prayerful as ever)

I don't think Whitman poems work so well in small doses.

dickinson does suffer in large ones i think, she can drive u crazy circling her obsessions (like the gnats around the porch light in lolita: "continuously darning the air in one spot") not to mention that one rhythm she likes so much that's practically a personal haiku.

that fire/flood/winds/floor one i posted upthread still gives me chills tho: all four elements, in conspiracy. sometimes she reminds me of the log lady

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 30 September 2017 02:04 (two years ago) link

i seem to have invented a new kind of dash, above. the circle is now complete. ascend w me the eminence

difficult listening hour, Saturday, 30 September 2017 02:05 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

This is Emily.
Emily stays inside.
She reads. She writes poetry. She writes letters. She bakes. She does a bit of bird watching. Then she writes some more.
Emily is safe from COVID-19.
Be like Emily. pic.twitter.com/4Weuc9puug

— Mathieu Duplay 🌈 🇪🇺 (@mathieu_duplay) March 16, 2020

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 17 March 2020 08:51 (two months ago) link


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