The essence of poetry is the unique view–the unguessed relationship, suddenly manifest. Poetry’s eye is always aslant, oblique. . . Poetic vision doesn’t see things head on. The poet’s angle of perception is not like any other. Emily Dickinson said it best: "Tell all the truth but tell it slant." - Josephine Jacobsen
This section of the Dickinson Electronic Archives, Titanic Operas, is a setting for contemporary poets, and their complex, contradictory, always inspiring responses to the nineteenth-century American poet Emily Dickinson. The site is titled after Dickinson's most famous response to her contemporary, a British literary sister who was part of one of the most celebrated couples in all of English poetry--Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.
I think I was Enchanted
When first a +sombre Girl -
I read that Foreign Lady -
The Dark - felt beautiful -
Reading Barrett Browning rendered Dickinson's consciousness one of divine disorientation, where she could not tell noon from night, nor nature's pests from her queens. In this altered state of consciousness, even "the meanest Tunes" seem as if they are those of "Giants - practising / Titanic Opera - " and imbue life's rhythms with "Mighty Metres" (F 29; P 593). Such was the poetic legacy Emily Dickinson herself enjoyed.
Here, whether directly speaking to or merely influenced by the presence of Emily Dickinson and her poetry, poets muse, in and with all their various voices, on Dickinson, her influence.
In the generative spirit of Dickinson’s expansion of the idea that poetry is a dwelling place, a condition of possibility (shared with Thomas Wentworth Higginson and many other nineteenth-century writers), Folios Two and Three each focus on contemporary literary and artistic creation. Here in Folio One poets muse, whether directly speaking to or speaking of being influenced by the presence of Emily Dickinson and her poetry. Gwendolyn Brooks, Amy Clampitt, Toi Derricotte, Sandra Gilbert, Marilyn Hacker, Carolyn Kizer, Maxine Kumin, Denise Levertov, Joyce Carol Oates, Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, Alicia Ostriker, Katha Pollitt, Adrienne Rich, and Ruth Stone can be listened to as well as read. Each of them participated in an Emily Dickinson Centennial at Seton Hall University in their Theater in the Round, the circular shape of which Gwendolyn Brooks remarks in her opening comments. We hope you enjoy all their various voices as they respond to Dickinson and her legacy, and all of the voices and inscriptions contributed by the poets featured throughout these Folios.
Folio One: A Poets' Corner of Responses to Dickinson's Legacy edited by Martha Nell Smith, with Laura Elyn Lauth
Folio Two: Poetry and New Materialities edited by Joseph Donahue
Folio Three: Poetry and New Materialities II edited by Joseph Donahue