The absolute most important stop on my epic, fall-time adventure was to the Emily Dickinson Museum/House in Amherst, Massachusetts.
I don't remember exactly when I read my first Emily Dickinson poem, all I know is that her words have historically had the power to sear my head completely in half: leaving my planet-shaped skull hairless and bloody, exposed to all of the despondence and glee that the heavens hold. Emily's words are magic.
In undergrad at Sarah Lawrence College (years and years ago) I undertook a "Queering Emily Dickinson" independent study project. I spent hours with her words, becoming very involved in her (lack of?) romantic interests, magnifying-glassing her correspondence, and picking apart the fleshy loaves of her poems. She is the archetypal madwoman poetess, the solitary scribbler, another product of her time/place. She lived for her poetry. She lived inside of her poetry. You can still find her there if you look close enough.
Emily's poetry is full of constant movement. I have found that with each reading (especially as I read them at different points in my life) her poems are always alive with new meaning(s), they are always fighting stagnation. Her strange punctuation, and plus signs (+) allow for multiplicity in meaning and breath. She never allowed herself to be boxed in; her fluidity spiiiiiiiiilllllls.
While listening to the awesomely-engaging, poetry-spouting tour guide at the ED Museum talk about Emily's practicality and ingenuity (she had a tiny pocket sewn into each of her dresses to hold a small piece of paper and pencil), I felt a slight buzzing at the nape of my neck. When I turned around, no one was there, not any psychical being anyway. Of course Emily's energy would feel fluttery and bee-like! I thanked her for the inspiration and support, blew her a kiss, and offered my own pocket as a safekeeping for ghost pencils and ghost paper.
Here are a few of the pictures from my pilgrimage:
Emily's Epitaph: "Called Back."
by Emily Dickson
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –
And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,
As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here –
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –
(For tips on how to read Emily Dickinson's poetry, go here!)