Poetry Friday: "How Frugal Is the Chariot That Bears the Human Soul"

It’s a Dickinson Day, which means that it’s a day for a poem that is compact and concise and full of a quiet passion. Go, Emily.

This poem struck a chord with me a few weeks ago, and I’m still thinking through Jen’s post at ShelfSpace and the idea of creating a culture of reading. Most people I know have a book in their backpack, purse, pocket, HandSpring, or Kindle wherever they go, but there are other people who always complain that they just don’t have time to read, or, see me reading and say they wish they had the time, or were as fast etc. etc. etc., blah blah. May I remind you, to paraphrase a friend, that the only thing we’re born knowing how to do is wee and wail? Everything else is a learned skill.

So, anyone can become a reader.

While there is indeed no frigate like a book, there are others of the poems of Emily Dickinson which I wish I had been taught in school. I sometimes wonder at the worn and frayed Dickinson pieces which are used and overused in the junior high and high school canon (and parroted to that dreadful yellow rose song*). Why do we do that to her? And to our poor kids!? I hope teachers are discovering more of her other work through fun outings like Poetry Friday, and expanding their student’s interest with words like this:

XXI. He ate and drank the precious Words

He ate and  

drank the

  precious Words –

His Spirit grew

robust –

He knew no more  

that he was poor;

Nor that his

frame was

  Dust –

He danced  

along the dingy


And this Bequest

of Wings

Was but a Book –

What Liberty

A loosened Spirit

  brings –

~ Emily Dickinson

This is the unedited version of the poem; you’ll notice that the lines are different from her usual stanzas, and it feels a little more organic to a jotting down in a journal type of thing. Also from Miss Emily’s journal: “Not alone we fly . . . he has obligation who has Paradise.”

And this is why we give books and talk about them and share them. We have Paradise. Everyone else should, too.

Happy Poetry Friday.
More poetry at Yat-Yee’s place.

* Really, it’s an awfully good way to memorize a poem, especially if you’re of a musical bent as I am. But… that song is an earworm of the most accurséd sort. Further, there are many Dickinson poems on which it doesn’t work! But few people ever get that far in her poetry to know that. Which is a shame.