A close read of Dickinson

reading the slant of light in conjunction with the the slanting of Truth — “or every man be blind” (427) – thinking about what Katie said about the eclipse — that the Sun is Truth and is blinding, but instead of constructing a religion which blocks the Sun, Dickinson wants to Slant the Light through poetry. so poetry is the slanting of light. The line “Winter Afternoons” shows both the symbol of winter as death and noon as consciousness — we talked in class about the ability to maintain the “affliction” of consciousness with the consciousness of death (the peace / innocence / June solipsisms that can never be maintained). The next lines:

“That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –”

shows this “affliction” or pain or despair — the comparison to the Heft of cathedral tunes shows perhaps that this slanted light is not the Sun, but a musical transcription of the spiritual experience. It gives us “Heavenly Hurt” (seems like Dickinson tries to redefine religious imagery into an ascetic apprehension) — and “We can find no scar” because the hurt is of consciousness, not of the body

“But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are — ”

Meaning is not in the thing itself, but only in its agonizing perception — the difference is the space between the consciousness of the experience of the thing and the loss of that perception…the meaning in the poem is in how it is perceived, how it changes us. “None may teach it — Any — ” — this reminds of the letter to Higginson (25 april 1862) “Could you tell me how to grow — or is it unconveyed — like Melody — or Witchcraft?” this idea of being masterless, a subversion of the master/slave dialectic — and remembering Whitman from Song of Myself — that we must filter everything through our own eyes. and this fact of being absolutely Alone with consciousness brings

“the Seal Despair —
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –”

out towards circumference until “it comes” and

“the Landscape listens —
Shadows — hold their breath — “

The Landscape being the transfigured earth, the space of the poem, the body of the reader — or even consciousness itself as landscape of perception — the shadow as Death, as self, as Poet hold their continuum of breath (“and everyone and i stopped breathing”), for a moment until “it goes”

“Like the Distance
On the Look of Death — “

the Slant of Light is lost. the poem “ends beyond / Indefinite disclosed” (310). the Distance is unredeemable. the poet breathes, and the reader, in turn. and all look of Death. and “there are many desperate arms about us and the things we know” (Kenneth Patchen, “The Character of Love Seen as a Searth for the Lost”)…

thanks for reading


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