Alicia Ostriker on Emily Dickinson

# 303

 

The Soul selects her own Society—
Then—shuts the Door—
To her divine Majority—
Present no more—

Unmoved—she notes the Chariots—pausing—
At her low Gate—
Unmoved—an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat—

I've known her—from an ample nation—
Choose One—
Then—close the Valves of her attention—
Like Stone—

 

THE SOUL SELECTS HER OWN SOCIETY: 
AN ACROSTIC

 

This is one of ED's smartest or wisest poems.

Her insight tickles;  it also encourages.

Even before I knew I was a poet,

Something was promising me that my choice, not

Only of whom but of what (beauty, art, poetry) to love would
     be valid; that however

Unclear most things were in my world,

Love would be clear and

Simple.  And soulful.  (Don't you love the s's in that first line?

Ever notice there are four of them?  And how they slow the line
     up? Then

Look how the next line snaps shut!

Emily reproduces, rhythmically, the careful intentionality of 
     selection and its

Conclusion.

Then she brings politics into it, but sideways.  Divinely,

"Soul" outvotes the opposition.  Majority rules.  Soul as majority?
     How improbable!

How painfully I remember, in childhood—and thereafter—always
     being in the minority.

Emily perhaps shared that experience.  She didn't get mad, she
     got even.

Rejection can be fun, when your soul does the rejecting.

Of course, it's especially fun to imagine rejecting your social
     superiors.

Well, it is for me.  But did Emily have social superiors?  

No—but she did have some pompous men in her life.

Sweet and pretty fantasy to make them collectively kneel.

Open and shut case.  And so feminine,

Capitalizing, for one's imagery, on feminine anatomy.  Those
     valves!

I admire and enjoy the way in the

End, they turn impregnable as stone.

This is one of the many reasons I admire and love

You, Emily.


* * *

Poem reprinted by permission of the publishers and Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, Ralph W. Franklin, ed. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright ©1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright  © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

 

 

 
 

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