Dickinson's Hidden Poems
demonstrate the difference between plain-speech resonance styles and
more formal, classical styles of poetry, I like to compare Emily
Dickinson's official poetry with what I call her "hidden" poems: poetic
passages I have culled from her correspondence. Her poems were
written in the persona of someone who no doubt imagined them appearing
somewhere in print in some imaginary book of serious poetry - then
hidden under her bed. Her letters were written and sent to real
people in her serioius attempt to communicate with them at various
levels of conversational intimacy. The hidden poems "resonated"
with "plain-speech." This isn't to intimate that they are
superior to her formal poetry (I truly admire her formal poetry), only
to illustrate the difference.
can read some of the hidden
poems by clicking here.
can contrast them with her more
formal poetry by clicking here. To confuse things a bit, let
me note that this isn't to say that all of her poetry lacks a
plain-speech nexus. There is a plain-speech, sometimes primitive
simplicity to her trademark complexity. Indeed numerous poems can be
defended as entirely within the plain-speech resonance category (for
example: "I Shall
Keep Singing." But usually, her meters are more metronomed, and her rhymes stick
tighter as if to call attention to their intention as poetry, and her
word-play often seems more formally calculated to dazzle.
after I'd completed my own informal collection of "hidden" poems from
the correspondence, William Shurr's book: "New
Poems of Emily
was published (1993). If you consult it, you'll see
that he culled from the same correspondence sources. The
significant difference is that Shurr held much more strictly to the
standards of measured meters common to the time at which Emily
wrote. My parameters were geared to modern rhythms. This
meant, in my opinion, that a lot of what he gathered tended to be more
formal and stilted than what my search yielded. He and I engaged
in a short correspondence that ended without consensus.