Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Your Turn to Weigh in

No, don't worry, I'm not talking about a scale! (After birthday cake this weekend, I'm certainly not going anywhere near a scale!)

What I am talking about is hearing your ideas.

I was asked tonight if the following poem is a riddle and if so what the answer is.

Poetry can be interpreted different ways by different people. What do you think? Is this a riddle? If so, what do you think the answer might be? Is it not a riddle? If not, what do you think the meaning could be? (This is not a test, and I am not an English teacher. There is no wrong answer here, so don't stress, OK?)

The Bee is not afraid of me.
I know the Butterfly.
The pretty people in the Woods
Receive me cordially --

The Brooks laugh louder when I come --
The Breezes madder play;
Wherefore mine eye thy silver mists,
Wherefore, Oh Summer's Day?

(Emily Dickinson #111 c.1859)

(Context for question: My youngest niece will be reciting this poem Friday, March 2, and it would be nice for her to have some background on it if she is asked questions. Can you help her out? If you know me and are shy about commenting on a blog, feel free to email instead. Thanks in advance to all responders.)


David Meyer said...

I am definitely not an expert on poetry, right Heidi? but I do not see this poem as a riddle so much as just someone expressing their love of the outdoors, and doing so in the image of a relationship. I like the way the author expresses the idea that nature seems to respond with enthusiasm and a little extra energy when she shows up to play.

Those are the thoughts of this untrained reader. Anyone else?

Anonymous said...

I too do not claim to be very knowledgeable when it comes to poetry but I do enjoy a good riddle. This poem seems to be saying to me, "What am I?" My response, a flower, of course.

Uncle D

Anonymous said...

Dave...you talked to H before you posted and then claimed her ideas as your own. Some people call that plagerism!


Anonymous said...

Uncle D...I think you may be on to something with your flower idea. The rivers are louder in the spring because they are higher with the snowmelt. The breezes blow harder in the spring (best time to fly a kite, right?) Bees and butterflies love the flower and people receive them as well.

I'm sold! Brilliant!


Heidi said...

Tony, I'm so glad that through Uncle D you have found a riddle approach and a lighter touch to share with your daughter, and I like your added comments on it too. I'm glad you'll have this to share rather than my take on the silver mists being tears over individual mortality - a little too heavy a burden to put on a 10 year old!

Anonymous said...

Oh my...your take on this is all way to heavy, lighten up it's almost spring!!!
I'll take Uncle D's response anyday over yours. (Hi Uncle D if your H & I's common Uncle D).

Cousin P

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but Uncle D's approach hasn't explained those last two lines that your approach does. Any help there?


Heidi said...

I find it's a VERY good thing to have people like Cousin P and Uncle D in my life to keep me from swimming too long in waters too deep - not always a good place to be! Balance and lightness are important things in order to keep swimming in this river of life!

Coincidentally I finished a 20 page paper yesterday on humor in poetry!! (I share that to let you know I'm not ALWAYS morbid :-)

Tony, as to your mention of the last two lines, I'm afraid I can't help but continue to lean towards my sense of this. If we could leave out those last two lines I'd go for the riddle and the answer - makes complete sense.

My take remains that ED is so at one with nature that it doesn't "spook" at her appearance but rather actually greets her joyfully - and that her eye being misted is the mist of tears. Why tears in such a joyful scene? The only explanation I have is that she must some day leave the natural world.

But, like I said in my post, I'm not an English teacher, and poems are open to interpretation. There is not necessarily just one "correct" interpretation.

David Meyer said...

Thanks for your vote of confidence, Brother. What a blessing to have my own creative ideas appreciated so.

Who's H?

Nethe said...

I´m much too late to help your daughter... But I might just contribute to lighten your thoughts, Heidi, as your friends and family venture to do here.

You talk of tears...
I have a very dear friend, and she only cries when people she love are praised by others to her or in her presence. Sad things leave her dry - though as sad as the rest of us. She has made a profound impact on my view on tears.

I think the writer of the poem is feeling the wonder of (the) nature, and as it all wells up inside her, the valves open. The tears puzzle her, that´s all.

Plausible explanation, you think? Need another example? then, what about holding a -no your- newborn child? Now, if that will not bring on a happy flood, I don´t know what could. You´re not thinking of the babe´s inevitable immortality, heavens forbid!

I know I´m right (though there´s no right or wring here) :-)

nethe said...

Uh, I don´t like it when I´m wrong, but since non of you will correct me I have to say it myself. I was wrong. -About the tears of joy. I think...
I´ve had ED´s poem i my head all night, and only just now I got through it.
It seems to me now that the poem really is a puzzle after all. I thought in the lines of the flower solution of David Meyer. But why the tears? I realized that it could instead be "spring". And then the tears would actually have something to do with mortality, as spring passes away when summer comes...


Heidi said...

Wow! You've really taken this to heart, Nethe! Poems do that to me to - sit with me and roll around inside and stay with me.

I'm afraid I have to agree that it does have to do with sadness about mortality. Although I like your idea about tears of joy.

Certainly Emily Dickinson knew what she meant when she was writing this, but I believe once a poem is written it can have many different meanings depending on who is reading it.

When you first commented on my blog last year, you suggested I do some writing. Well, I am currently writing a book on math and poetry. I'm trying to make math less a fearful thing by showing that it is really like poetry, but what I have to get past first is that many people have nearly as much fear of poetry as they do of math.

I'm trying to express in my book that poetry and math are both FOR us; they are for our use - not to intimidate us. I came across a poem by musician John Cage in my research that I think illustrates this.

I have nothing to say
and I am saying it
and that is poetry
as I needed it.

There are many poems that provide for me what I need, even though I'm sure the feeling they create in me is not what the author intended!