So, Day 2 of Subject Index was yesterday, and I covered poems 342 to 560 in the Johnson Edition. Fewer poems than last week, but I think that was about the performance finding a slower pace, and partly that we hit some of Emily Dickinson’s longest poems in this section, her most productive year, 1862.
There were more poems that gave me pause, and I took the pause, to work out, or try to work out. Some of the poems threw me partly because of a word use which I didn’t know. I’ve been able to look at them in a different light, now at home, thanks to the excellent Emily Dickinson Lexicon which lists definitions from the dictionary she owned and gives a great indication of what she understood by the words she used. The word ‘cypherer’ from poem 545 is now way clearer to me, for example. Other poems I still haven’t figured more for reasons of my own thickness, like 528. I wonder if it’ll open up to me at some later date but at the moment I’m not sure what ‘Mine’ is! Unless it’s the delirious charter she mentions, though then what’s that? Ah, the joys of reading poetry are here exemplified.
One of my visitors yesterday, Lila Matsumoto, pointed out that lots of the poems being read in the session seemed to speak to the particular set-up of Subject Index. Poems about veils and seclusion, seperateness I think. I took it as confirmation of my instincts in setting the encounter with Dickinson’s poetry in this way. It made me happy to hear the connections being voiced back to me. An example of the poems that I think sparked in the space is the incomparable 365, Dare you see a soul at the white heat, where the poet invites the reader to crouch within the door, presumably hers.
There were other poems that piqued particular interest in various ways. 426 was a surprise with Dickinson appearing to adopt a vernacular voice. 452, using the word negro, struck me after having been at Arika’s excellent events at Tramway in Glasgow last weekend; Freedom is a Constant Struggle was focused on black radical arts and the legacy of black American history was picked back through the centuries. Interesting to think of Dickinson’s life alongside those stories.
I’ve put a couple of pictures from Day 2 down below, thanks Mirja Koponen and Richard Taylor. You’ll see I’ve been experimenting with positioning myself in the space a bit, and my wonderful parents are in a picture too.
And the poem I’ve picked to share in full after Day 2, Johnson number 421, is another that links with the form of my presentation. I enjoyed reading it behind my opaque screen and feeling its perfect fit. Hope to see some of you next week on 29th April. It’s just the 12-2pm session remember.
A Charm invests a face
Imperfectly beheld —
The Lady dare not lift her Veil
For fear it be dispelled —
But peers beyond her mesh —
And wishes — and denies —
Lest Interview — annul a want
That Image — satisfies —