Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Competition In Hand

I send Two Sunsets —
Day and I — in competition ran —
I finished Two—and several Stars —
While He — was making One —

His own was ampler — but as I
Was saying to a friend —
Mine — is the more convenient
To Carry in the Hand —
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


Nethe said...

I really like this poem, Heidi. Not because I understand it,though, ´cause I genuinely don’t get what Emily is really talking about (help!). Something about the sun and moon?

Well, I like it because it has such a nice "lope" to the pace of reading it... I think it´s the feel I had when juuuuust too young to talk (and if believing my mom, that was pretty young). You know the time? The time when the knowledge that each word has meaning is there inside me, but the meaning isn´t… Back then, mom could have read me this poem, and I would have loved it for the melody then too.

But now I´m a grown up, so I have to know. Know-know-know it all. So if you don’t mind "cutting it out in card board" or "serving it to me in tea spoons", I’d really like the text explained. The narrator is running with the sun and loosing? What is it in her hand?

Heidi said...

I LOVE your comment!

I know just what you are talking about, and you put it so well. I wish we could find a way to privately exchange email addresses without putting them up on a blog comment for all the world to access.

I just wrote a "book" that has to do partially with poetry and the fear some people have of it. I would sure love to be able to have longer discussions with you about what you said in your comment, both because it is interesting to me and because my current graduate work has to do with math as a language and math as poetry - and how we come to understand language and meaning. So, I appreciate your comment on a number of levels.

In my "book," one thing I express there is that it is OK not to understand a poem right away. In order to enjoy poetry, it's important to be OK with letting just one thing jump out at you - maybe just the rhythm, the "lope" as you say - or maybe just one line that catches your imagination - and then to let it rest with you. Maybe more will come with time, maybe not, but it's OK. Part can be enjoyed even if the whole is not grasped.

Isn't that kind of the way it is with life too? We don't understand the whole thing, but we can enjoy what we find in it to enjoy.

OK, enough philosophy - on to the meaning.

Oh wait, let me add that I did not used to like Emily Dickinson. Her work seemed too choppy to me, and I didn't like it that it didn't "really" rhyme well. Then I took a one month class about her and her work, and she has become my absolute FAVORITE!

I just needed a little help opening my eyes to the beauty that was there, and then it came flooding in!

Here is my take on this poem.

It is about whether or not poetry can capture beauty as well as the natural world creates it.

She is writing about writing a poem about a sunset, and considering whether her poem can do such a good job of describing that beauty that it will be as good as a natural sunset.

It seems to me she is sitting outside writing as the sun is setting. In the time it took the sun to set - in other words, in the time it took "Day" to MAKE a sunset, she had finished TWO sunsets in two poems and also several poems about stars.

When she says, "I send Two Sunsets," she is talking to a friend to whom she has sent both her poems describing a sunset, and she tells her friend how it was a competition to see if she could make as good a sunset as nature.

She admits in the first line of the second stanza that "Day" did a better job of making a sunset, that his was "ampler," better, fuller. She concedes that he won, but she goes on to say that there are some advantages that she has in her poetry over nature's sunset.

She was able to do it faster and produce more in the same time, and, her "sunset" can be carried in the hand. It can be taken with you wherever you go, and it is permanent.

Once a natural sunset is over, it's gone. You can't take it with you. You can't take it out in the dark of a lonely night and bring back the light, but you can recite a poem about light and sunset anytime you want, anytime life is dark, you can carry poetry with you and take it out and see it and enjoy it at your convenience and in your time of need.

Does that make sense?

I'm so glad you want it to make sense!

I think I'll post some more ED in the near future. With ED, it is often the case that you need to let it rest inside you a while before it reveals itself entirely - sort of like a fine wine where you enjoy the boquet and then you sip it and savor it in your mouth for a while before swallowing, and the enjoyment grows as you savor it. She uses words in unexpected ways, so it sometimes takes a while to see what she is getting at.

One of the reasons I like Emily so much is that it seems in many of her poems she is speaking my very own thoughts - but in a beautiful way in which I am unable to express them. Her poetry makes me feel understood and not alone. A century and a half ago she was feeling the same things I am feeling now, and it makes me feel connected with ALL of humanity in some way - that I am part of something bigger than myself.

She writes a lot about struggling with whether or not to believe in God, her doubts. She writes a lot about death and how to view it - trying to figure it out and cope with the idea of it. She writes of love. She writes of simple daily experience and of nature. She writes of what it means to be human. She writes of poetry and its power (as she did here).

She has a huge body of work, 1775 poems, if I remember correctly, so there is much to be found there.

I hope you'll become a fan of hers too!