Saturday, September 19, 2009

Verse Reviewers

Um ... hi? Is this the Verse Reviewers, the virtual poetry circle? This seat taken? Great, thank you. Yes, I found it OK ... directions were great. I'm happy to be here too.

Serena over at Savvy Verse and Wit has invited me (and you too, and anyone else) to join her Verse Reviewers, where each week we review and comment on a poem. Since I am trying to read more poetry, I thought this might be fun and a challenge at the same time.

Today's poem by Emily Dickinson, writes Serena, is one of her favorites. Mine too, and since it is one I've read (many) times before, it's a good one for me to start with.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death (712)

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality.
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity –

On its surface, this poem is (obviously) about death but especially about that sense one has when death comes unexpectedly. We've all experienced the shock of seeing someone's obituary, perhaps someone young, someone who we knew in school or as a colleague in the next office several jobs ago, or someone who used to live in your neighborhood.

We tell ourselves the usual platitudes meant to comfort our psyches ... life is short, make every day count, treasure the time you have here with your loved ones, it's the little things that matter.

And I think the line and title "Because I Could Not Stop for Death, He Kindly Stopped for Me" speaks to the modus operandi of our society, of always being on the go and always doing something. Death is going to come for us someday and it might be in the midst of planning the PTA fundraiser, ("We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess – in the Ring"), of sealing that big deal and moving up the corporate ladder ("We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –"), accumulating designer clothes and bigger homes that are, in actually, not as important as we make them out to be. ("For only Gossamer, my Gown –My Tippet – only Tulle – We paused before a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground –The Roof was scarcely visible – The Cornice – in the Ground –") And these things will go on without us.

This may be a more modern take on this. Another interpretation could be that these verses are metaphors for one's life - going to school and playing at recess, then to work and having a home and family.

It's as if Death has put a DVD on in his Carriage. "Take a good look ... these are the things that have made up your life."

Look closely and carefully.

Our exit will be coming up sooner than you think.


Serena said...

Great post! Thanks for joining the verse reviewers Virtual poetry circle this week.

If you would like, I can place you on the Verse Reviewers list for publishers interested in getting more poetry reviewed online. Up to you.

just email your name, blog address and email to savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

I think your only the second person to post about a week will be a contemporary poem.

I hope you will continue participating. Generally most people leave comments on my site, but I like when people get creative and make their own posts and leave links in the comments.

Additionally, (I know I'm babbling here) I love your modern take on this poem...shows the true power of this poem that it can resonate even today.

JoAnn said...

Good morning, Melissa! I have an award for you ...