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HollyinNNV

Would you like to participate in a penetrating poetry palaver?

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(Someone's been on thesaurus.com today!)

 

I was wondering if anyone out there would like to discuss poetry with me? I have always found poetry challenging to understand. When I am able to find meaning, I wonder if I have found everything or if I am missing some essential element. I enjoy the discussions on this board so much, and I would love to hear various opinions on works of poetry.

 

So....who might be interested? I was thinking we might try one poem a week. Does that sound good or should we start a poem on Sunday and another on Thursday (two a week)? I chose an Emily Dickinson to start.

 

Hope to hear thoughts on the discussion ideas and the Dickinson.

 

I heard a Fly buzz (465)

by Emily Dickinson

 

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air –

Between the Heaves of Storm –

 

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –

And Breaths were gathering firm

For that last Onset – when the King

Be witnessed – in the Room –

 

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away

What portions of me be

Assignable – and then it was

There interposed a Fly –

 

With Blue – uncertain stumbling Buzz –

Between the light – and me –

And then the Windows failed – and then

I could not see to see –

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I'm game. Old-fashioned lyric poetry is my preference, but I'm willing to expand my horizons. I love alliteration, symbolism, metaphor, and references to nature.

 

The Dickenson- death again. Emily was so fond of writing about death. I once worked my way through a complete volume of her poems and was heartily sick of death by the end. I also read a biography, she was a little "different."

 

The poem is quite striking and unnerving. Can you imagine thinking of yourself being inside your body and calmly watching the room while you die?

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My comments are between the stars:

 

 

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air –

Between the Heaves of Storm –

************************************

I notice that the word "stillness" is duplicated. The idea of stillness in the air between heaves of the storm reminds me of the eye of a hurricane. "Heaves" reminds me of throwing up or crying. Not sure if that would have been the case in Emily's day.

************************************

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –

And Breaths were gathering firm

For that last Onset – when the King

Be witnessed – in the Room –

*************************************

So are we talking about the people that are in attendance at her death, here? Why were the eyes wrung dry? Does this mean that the person has been sick and everyone has already done their grieving? Why is the "King" going to be witnessed in the room? Does this just refer to the deceased going to heaven?

**************************************

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away

What portions of me be

Assignable – and then it was

There interposed a Fly –

**************************************

This seems like the clearest of the stanzas to me. She is giving away her possessions.

*************************************

With Blue – uncertain stumbling Buzz –

Between the light – and me –

And then the Windows failed – and then

I could not see to see –

***********************************

What does "Blue" refer to? Why does the fly get between the light (eternity?) and the dying person? Why is the last thing she sees a fly? Does "see" mean anything more than just the aspect of sight?

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I will add my thoughts to the previous poster's

 

I heard a Fly buzz (465)

by Emily Dickinson

 

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air –

Between the Heaves of Storm –

________________________________

The st... sound is repeated three times. The buzz of the fly?

_______________________________________________

 

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –

And Breaths were gathering firm

For that last Onset – when the King

Be witnessed – in the Room –

____________________________

Breaths were gathering firm- people were holding their breath in anticipation of what was coming

The King- God? or Death? I suspect it is Death- Lord of the flies, Beezebulb

__________________________________________

 

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away

What portions of me be

Assignable – and then it was

There interposed a Fly –

 

With Blue – uncertain stumbling Buzz –

Between the light – and me –

And then the Windows failed – and then

I could not see to see –

_________________________

Blue- blue bottle flies lay their eggs on dead carcasses

Windows- eyes are the windows of the soul

the light- life? heaven? God? Death has come between her and the light.

 

You could read this hissing all the 's' sounds. Emily was so morbid.

 

Other sounds that repeat- "b'" and "w"

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More comments:

 

* the poem seems to draw contrasts between the levity of death and the normalcy of an annoying fly; between the stillness of death and life of the fly; between the greatness of human-ness and the baseness of a fly. Maybe she witnessed something like this? Maybe she was present at the death of someone dying and in the stillness and gravity and sorrow plaguing the room, there was the buzzing of a fly and the irony struck.

 

*I love how she uses the em dash to set off the contrasts, to show the back and forth between the two worlds, the verge of one and the other.

 

*lots of alliteration (blue, buzz, between)

 

Thanks for starting this HollyNNV -- I've missed your posts lately on the high school board.

Lisa

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Not me.

 

I hate poetry.

 

Hate, hate, hate.

 

But I'll bump your thread so more poetry-lovers will see it! :)

 

Also, I just sort of wanted to be part of a thread with the word palaver in it. It makes me feel kinda smart. :D

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An interesting concise webpage that describes a little of Emily's own experience of death begins with this paragraph:

 

"THE SUBJECT OF DEATH, including her own death, occurs throughout Emily Dickinson’s poems and letters. Although some find the preoccupation morbid, hers was not an unusual mindset for a time and place where religious attention focused on being prepared to die and where people died of illness and accident more readily than they do today. Nor was it an unusual concern for a sensitive young woman who lived fifteen years of her youth next door to the town cemetery."

 

http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/death

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I will add my thoughts to the previous poster's

 

I heard a Fly buzz (465)

by Emily Dickinson

 

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air –

Between the Heaves of Storm –

________________________________

The st... sound is repeated three times. The buzz of the fly?

_______________________________________________

 

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –

And Breaths were gathering firm

For that last Onset – when the King

Be witnessed – in the Room –

____________________________

Breaths were gathering firm- people were holding their breath in anticipation of what was coming

The King- God? or Death? I suspect it is Death- Lord of the flies, Beezebulb

__________________________________________

 

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away

What portions of me be

Assignable – and then it was

There interposed a Fly –

 

With Blue – uncertain stumbling Buzz –

Between the light – and me –

And then the Windows failed – and then

I could not see to see –

_________________________

Blue- blue bottle flies lay their eggs on dead carcasses

Windows- eyes are the windows of the soul

the light- life? heaven? God? Death has come between her and the light.

 

You could read this hissing all the 's' sounds. Emily was so morbid.

 

Other sounds that repeat- "b'" and "w"

 

 

Ooooh! I like everything you said. You definitely picked out all of the sounds that the poem emphasizes.

 

I wonder if Emily Dickinson knew about the blue bottle flies? I mean it seems just perfect that they lie eggs in dead carcasses. It is interesting that Emily describes the fly as uncertain and stumbling. Is that a comparison between the body/mind getting close to death, uncertain and stumbling? If so, is she comparing us to flies? Do we somehow reproduce in others' deaths?

 

I do not get the feeling that Emily thought death would be peaceful or a "final release." I agree that she seems rather morbid. I expect an entire book of her poetry might prove depressing.

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More comments:

 

* the poem seems to draw contrasts between the levity of death and the normalcy of an annoying fly; between the stillness of death and life of the fly; between the greatness of human-ness and the baseness of a fly. Maybe she witnessed something like this? Maybe she was present at the death of someone dying and in the stillness and gravity and sorrow plaguing the room, there was the buzzing of a fly and the irony struck.

 

*I love how she uses the em dash to set off the contrasts, to show the back and forth between the two worlds, the verge of one and the other.

 

*lots of alliteration (blue, buzz, between)

 

Thanks for starting this HollyNNV -- I've missed your posts lately on the high school board.

Lisa

 

Hi Lisa. Haven't been posting as much on the high school board. Mostly lurking as I am graduating out my first and my second still has another year before high school. Kind of relaxing in the gap, especially now that dd is done auditioning. Thanks for missing my posts :)

 

I am glad you mentioned the dashes! I really didn't know that much about the em dash, so I looked it up on wikipedia and here is what I found:

 

"The em dash, m dash, m-rule, or "mutton" (—) often demarcates a break of thought or some similar interpolation stronger than the interpolation demarcated by parentheses, such as the following from Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine:

 

At that age I once stabbed my best friend, Fred, with a pair of pinking shears in the base of the neck, enraged because he had been given the comprehensive sixty-four-crayon Crayola box—including the gold and silver crayons—and would not let me look closely at the box to see how Crayola had stabilized the built-in crayon sharpener under the tiers of crayons.

 

It is also used to indicate that a sentence is unfinished because the speaker has been interrupted. For example, the em dash is used in the following way in Joseph Heller's Catch-22:

He was Cain, Ulysses, the Flying Dutchman; he was Lot in Sodom, Deirdre of the Sorrows, Sweeney in the nightingales among trees. He was the miracle ingredient Z-147. He was—

"Crazy!" Clevinger interrupted, shrieking. "That's what you are! Crazy!"

"—immense. I'm a real, slam-bang, honest-to-goodness, three-fisted humdinger. I'm a bona fide supraman."

 

Similarly, it can be used instead of an ellipsis to indicate aposiopesis, the rhetorical device by which a sentence is stopped short not because of interruption but because the speaker is too emotional to continue, such as Darth Vader's line "I sense something; a presence I've not felt since—" in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.[23]"

***************************************

I am the most interested in the last way the dash can be used, to indicate aposiopesis. I had never heard of this. But, it is interesting to read the poem again with this in mind!

 

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I find it interesting that she's waiting for the arrival of the King, and yet all she can focus on is a fly. The fly is between herself and the light. The fly almost blocks the light with its presence, and its buzz follows her into the dark.

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I think the fly and death were often thought of together in that time period. There was an American song sung during Emily's life,"Jimmy Crack Corn," where the Blue Tail Fly is responsible for the death of a slave's master.

 

 

 

Beezelbub is in Paradise Lost and Pilgrim's Progress, both of which Emily could have read.

 

King Lear, Shakespeare- "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods, They kill us for their sport."

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I think the fly and death were often thought of together in that time period. There was an American song sung during Emily's life,"Jimmy Crack Corn," where the Blue Tail Fly is responsible for the death of a slave's master.

 

 

 

Beezelbub is in Paradise Lost and Pilgrim's Progress, both of which Emily could have read.

 

King Lear, Shakespeare- "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods, They kill us for their sport."

 

Wow! My dad used to play Jimmie Crack Corn on his banjo, but I never knew the lyrics. Here they are from Wikipedia:

 

**********************

When I was young I us'd to wait

On the boss and hand him his plate;

And Pass down the bottle when he got dry,

And brush away the blue tail fly.

refrain (repeated each verse):

Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,

Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,

Jimmy crack corn and I don't care,

My master's gone away.

In the two verses that follow, the singer is told to protect his master's horse from the bite of the blue-tail fly:

An' when he ride in de afternoon,

I foiler wid a hickory broom;

De poney being berry shy,

When bitten by de blue tail fly.

One day he rode aroun' de farm,

De flies so numerous dey did swarm;

One chanced to bite 'im on the thigh.

De debble take dat blue tail fly.

The horse bucks and the master is killed. The slave then escapes culpability:

De pony run, he jump an' pitch,

An' tumble massa in de ditch;

He died, an' de jury wonder'd why;

De verdic was de blue tail fly.

The references to a "jury" and a "verdic[t]" imply that the slave was criminally charged: Some sources indicate this may have referred to a coroner's inquest or police investigation, but these "slang" terms were not used outside the context of a court proceeding at the time.

They buried him 'neath the sycamore tree

His epitaph there for to see

"Beneath this stone I'm forced to lie

The victim of a blue-tailed Fly."

In the 1930's (exact dates unavailable) radio series Pinto Pete in Arizona, the following verse is added.

Ol' massa's gone and I'll let him rest,

They say all things are for the best,

But I'll never forget 'til the day I die,

Ol' massa and that blue-tailed fly.

Jim crack corn, I don't care (x3)

Ol' massa's gone away

The modern chorus is as follows:

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