kellyrfineman (kellyrfineman) wrote,

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There is no frigate like a book by Emily Dickinson

I'm going back to Massachusetts.

And if you think I was just singing a Bee Gees' song, you are both right and wrong. (Rhyme inadvertent, but noted.) Because I did, of course, just sing that line from the Bee Gees, but I am also heading for the state of Massachusetts in just a handful or so of hours.

This morning I'll see if I can wring one more Jane poem out of my time here in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Then angeladegroot and I will pack the minivan and head on down, a word which here means both "south" and "downhill". After a visit with my lovely aunt in Amherst (N.H.), we'll wind our way to Fitchburg for the New England SCBWI Conference and a joyful reunion with many writer friends.

Since it is Poetry Friday, a short poem by perhaps the most famous of Massachusetts poets, Miss Emily Dickinson, who lived in Amherst, Massachusetts:

There is no frigate like a book
by Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

Form: Written in common meter (a hymn form - 8-6-8-6), using alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. The shorter lines here rhyme - or, in the case of "away/Poetry", employ slant rhyme. Dickinson was a pioneer when it came to the use of slant rhyme; so much so that her early editors "corrected" many of her poems before publication.

Discussion: Did you notice that a book (one presumes a novel or a history) is compared to a sailing ship, whereas poetry is compared to a pair (or more) of swift, charging horses? The second half of the poem therefore discusses poetry, focusing as it does on a trip along a road in a chariot: Even the poorest person can take the trip of poetry without having to pay a toll, she says. "How frugal is the Chariot/that bears a Human soul" is often described as a paradox, but if you go with Emily's metaphor and understand that the aforementioned coursers are pulling the chariot, then you understand that the POEM is the chariot, and that her reference is to a trip made by the human soul while reading the poem. Frugal, after all, does not mean "cheap" or "miserly"; it means "using an economy of resources". One poem - one small poem, even - can be enough to transport the human soul, is what Miss Dickinson is getting at. And thinking about how many poems have taken me on journeys, I have to agree.

And now, to see if I might get a bit more of my own writing done before I head down the mountain. I certainly hope that my presentation about free verse at NESCBWI on Sunday will inspire pages of prancing poetry, and not send the horses running off a cliff!

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Tags: dickinson, poetry, poetry friday, scbwi
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