“Emily Dickinson’s Defunct”


“Emily Dickinson’s Defunct” After studying a bunch of Emily Dickinson’s poems and learning a little bit of background about her, I have discovered that I really appreciate the complexity of her work, and when I first read Marilyn Nelson Waniek’s poem, “Emily Dickinson’s Defunct,” a poem written about Dickinson, I found it to be very interesting. It was fascinating, one, because it valued Dickinson and her work, and two, because it reminded me of another one of my favorite poems, “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes” by Billy Collins. The reason it reminded me of Collins’ poem was because of Waniek’s allusions to Dickinson’s poetry throughout the poem, which Collins did a lot in his poem. There are many aspects of this poem that interest me but the top three are the speed of the poem, the many allusions to Dickinson’s work, and the bluntness, comicality, and contradiction of how Waniek describes Dickinson. The short lines and the fact that the whole poem is only one stanza allow the reader to read this particular poem very quickly. The speed of this individual poem permits the reader to swiftly read through it without being slowed down by longer lines or any slower punctuation. An example of slower punctuation could be dashes, which were used a lot in Dickinson’s work, but I believe could have been used in this poem to make it more associable to Dickinson’s poetry. A way it is correlated with Dickinson’s work is that it is only one stanza long and a lot of Dickinson’s poems were only one stanza long, granted they were only a few lines long, they were still only one stanza long. This specific poem intertwines facts about Dickinson with words from some of her more well-known poems. Like the fact that she describes Dickinson as having “packed poems/in her hip pocket” allows the reader to visualize how Dickinson was without actually telling the reader if she literally packs poems in her pockets (Meyer 794). One of the allusions that stood out the most to me was in the last four lines of the poem, “All the flies/just stood around/and buzzed/when she died,” which alludes to one of Dickinson’s poems titled, “I Heard a Fly Buzz–When I Died–” (Meyer 794). This particular Dickinson poem is used a lot in poems that are about her and mostly at the end because I believe other poets use that poem to signify Dickinson’s death. I absolutely love the bluntness, humor, and contradiction in this poem! These three elements make the poem so much fun to read and understand. The way Waniek describes Dickinson to make her seem like everyone else is just so frank and straight to the point. The manner that Waniek informs the reader about how Dickinson “smelled human/on a hot summer day” is one of my favorite lines from the entire poem (Meyer 794). The fact that most everyone thought Dickinson was some kind of god and Waniek describes her as just a human who smells in the summer was rather amusing to me. Another component I thought was somewhat humorous was that “she could pray/like the devil” which was rather confusing because a person wouldn’t normally associate praying and the devil in this particular way (Meyer 794). These parts, bluntness, humor, and paradox, are crucial in this poem because they make the poem more interesting and comical to read through and understand. They help the reader understand what the speaker was trying to say without giving it away easily. Some of the way the poem is written with these things is kind of hard to understand which makes the poem so much more interesting because you have to use your imagination to find out what you think Waniek meant when she wrote it. Without bluntness, funniness, and contradiction the poem would be very different and boring to read. Works Cited Meyer, Michael. Emily Dickinson’s Defunct. 9th Edition. Boston, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. 794. Print. Meyer, Michael. Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes. 9th Edition. Boston, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. 627-28. Print.