Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Miss Dickinson's slant of light

Today my college prep students "took apart" another poem by Miss Emily... They hinted they will be happy to move on to someone else. I understand. It takes a while for Emily's poems to make sense. They have a way of hitting the soul and causing a person to think too much...

I have a friend who used to tell me her husband often said, "You think too much." I don't know what he meant, but I do know the persistent thought life takes its toll on a person's psyche. We, as bloggers, currently look at the world through bloggy eyes.... ( this would be a cool picture. I could make that and it would be inspirational! I will have to think this through for a post...) The poets did the same... especially Miss Emily.

It worked its magic. Although the students aren't embracing her the way they did Elie Wiesel or Arthur Miller or dear, sweet Harper Lee, they do see a kind of a genius to her... That's all I ask.

This poem means more to me because I am obsessed with that concept of a certain slant of light. It's why so many of my blogs feature the sunset, the sunrise, or a certain shade or array of light/shadow.... It is a parable, a metaphor for life. Obviously I embrace the dark in the real world, loving the night, the moon, the starry canopy... I resist and fear the dark of the spiritual world if it means death, loss, or the scary unknown. That's pretty normal I'm guessing.


There's a certain Slant of light (258)
by Emily Dickinson

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
'Tis the Seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –


I love the line, "when it comes, the landscape listens..." I feel that way at twilight... I have a passion for the colors, the essence, the feel of twilight... It is a melancholy time... My students had to take a moment and think of their own "certain slants of light" that touched them... Their choices were lovely: one girl wrote of a memory of the streets of a one-year post Katrina New Orleans from a mission visit she took as a Freshman; one boy wrote of the smell of his grandfather's truck bringing nostalgia because it was the exact same smell he remembered from his father who passed away when he was very very young... One girl wouldn't share, and I suspect hers was sad. One literal young man wrote about popcorn at the movie theater and insisted it was only food for the belly! (He plans to be a theater major, so I doubt that, but he held his ground).... I had slants of light as peppermint for Christmas, spring, and even one boy insisted he could write about his dream to see the Northern Lights, even though his feet haven't been out of Missouri....

I guess we all have our certain slants of light... something that triggers within us the immediate concept that we are about to receive the secrets of the Universe... We believe they are at our fingertips... and we reach out.... and they are gone... Vanished that same way the light changes imperceptibly when we race for our cameras after a glance out the window...

This photo is a picture of the windows as they appeared on our school one early morning a few years ago... I have never seen this phenomenon before or since... I love it and had to find it for this post...

For the remainder of this delightfully dark and melancholy winter's day, enjoy the light you love the most....


W. Latane Barton said...

I loved this post, certainly a thought provoking read and one that gave me cause to reflect and remember my own slants of light.

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

When I taught English, I brought in a recording of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and made my students sing her poems to the tune of it.... You can sing every single one of her poems to "The Yellow Rose of Texas." It was a good lesson on meter, and the students loved it! :D

Lisa Pogue said...

Wow Gayla I think this is one of my favorite posts!!!