She seems so inspirational to me, you never know what kind of phase you'll get. You never know what color, each night is a mystery. It makes you think of those who live to wake up to the sun. But also who waits all day just to look at the moon. It glows over all of us, who is all watching? The moon she fades in light but shines when not many are looking. Sometimes she seems shy and distant; other times she draws towards us. Somewhere out there, we were looking at the same time wondering who was thinking of us.
On like an apple
This week's poem is Emily Dickinson's "Much Madness is Divinest Sense."
Much Madness is divinest Sense - To a discerning Eye - Much Sense - the starkest Madness - ’Tis the Majority In this, as all, prevail - Assent - and you are sane - Demur - you’re straightway dangerous - And handled with a Chain -
Emily Dickinson is a person who, if she did not actually exist, would never have been imagined. She spent most of her life in her family home. Her poetry found little audience or acceptance in her lifetime. Although her use of ordinary language and images is parallel in some ways with Walt Whitman's pioneering ways with language, she did not read his work (at least, so it is believed) because it was so scandalously earthy in its time. She seemingly had a heartbreakingly painful unrequited or, at least, unexpressed, love relationship, and died having never married or had children, nor having had much engagement at all with any of the controversies and debates of her time (such as, for instance, the Civil War). Essentially she lived like a nun, but without even the social engagement of a convent full of other like-minded women. Her isolation was so profound and long lasting, that it is difficult for me to even contemplate.
All of this makes me very sad.
And yet, look at the jewels that her cramped and odd life situation caused her mind to produce! This poem is one of my favorites of hers. It identifies and expresses, perfectly, something we all know to be true, this mostly unnoticed and yet overwhelming constraint society places on its residents, to conform, to agree, to shun critical thought in favor of "assent." Its rhythm and rhyme are loose enough to feel natural, but provide enough form to capture my mind's interest and memory and delight ("much madness is divinest sense" is such an unforgettable phrase). And behind it all, this oddly gentle-yet-piercing humor she often manages. A knowingness, a space, between observer and observed.