Ever since I read a silly little-girl book that had an explanation about who Emily Dickinson was, I’ve liked her. I only read a few of her poems back then, but I loved the idea of her. Not only was her name beautiful, but she had a certain strange charm about her – a recluse, misunderstood, hated having people look at her, wrote all the time… She was an appealing mystery.
When I went on my college-trip, I had the great pleasure of taking a class at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The class I chose was a class about Emily Dickinson’s poetry. The poem we studied was this, number 202:
“Faith” is a fine invention
For Gentlemen who see!
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency!
The amount of discussion and conversation that went into the quotation marks around the first word, faith, was astounding. We spent an hour, a whole hour, on the meanings that can be derived from that. Perhaps she meant faith as a concept, perhaps she meant to be ironic or sarcastic about the meaning of faith, perhaps she simply wanted to make sure it was clear she meant the word faith as its own thing. Emily Dickinson usually has underlined words in her poems, odd capitalisation in the middle of sentences, strange and mysterious punctuation – all these things are great for beginning discussions in class.
Ms. M gave me a complete set of Emily Dickinson’s poems as a gift after I raved about that class. Her poems are beautiful. I consider myself now a fan.