Emily Each Day06 Jan 2020
A long time ago, I found a copy of poems by Emily Dickinson while walking on the streets of Cambridge.
I first met Emily during the poetry section of my ninth grade English class. My English teacher, Phyllis Tanner, introduced the two of us. Emily was everything I wanted to be: smart and insightful and strong and delicate and beautiful and spiritual and natural. In a word, she was so New England. Since we were both from Massachusetts, I thought maybe I had a shot to be like her, too.
Then the tenth grade came, and we stopped seeing each other.
I never got to know Emily all that well. Ms. Tanner had us meet a lot of poets that year. So it was a welcomed surprise to meet her again on the street. I took her home and put her on my bookshelf, determined to read each of her poems, one a day.
The next morning came, though, and we stopped seeing each other. Again.
Five years ago I signed the deed to my current home. And now I have decided finally to move in properly. Paint the walls. Hang up the art. Buy some rugs. Buy a couch. But first things first. I needed to take down the Murphy bed that dominated the living, bedroom, office, and fitness space of my studio condominium and along with its large, built-in bookshelves before I could replace them with some more thoughtful and space-economic furniture.
During the demolition I ran into Emily again, who had been hidden on one of the shelves. She was patient, graceful as always. This time I cracked open the spine and read the introduction by Martha, Emily’s niece.
Reading Martha’s words was like stepping back into Ms. Tanner’s class.
[Emily] was of the part of life that is always youth, always magical. She wrote of it as she grew to know it, step by step, discovery by discovery, truth by truth—until time merely became eternity. She was preëminently the discoverer—eagerly hunting the meaning of it all; this strange world in which she wonderingly found herself,—“A Balboa of house and
garden,” surmising what lay beyond the purple horizon. She lived with a God we do not believe in, and trusted in an immortality we do not deserve, in that confiding age with Duty ruled over Pleasure before the Puritan became a hypocrite.1
Emily experienced the world fresh; she could read the magic of its existence. I want see what she sees. Believing that practice makes perfect, I’m going to follow my mentor and each day post a poem of the day (POTD) until I’ve run out of Emily. That gives us at least 593 days together, starting today.
Emily Dickinson. Introduction by Martha Dickinson Bianchi, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Little, Brown, and Company. (1929) ↩