Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First Poem for Coursera's Modern Poetry Course

I enrolled for a second course on coursera so I could see how it would go. Intentionally choosing to take another humanities course, I chose the Modern Poetry class and the first poem assigned is Emily Dickinson's "I Dwell in Possibility":

I dwell in Possibility— 
A fairer House than Prose—
More numerous of Windows—
Superior—for Doors—

Of Chambers as the Cedars—
Impregnable of Eye—
And for an Everlasting Roof 
The Gambrels of the Sky—

Of Visitors—the fairest—
For Occupation—This—
The spreading wide my narrow Hands 
To gather Paradise—

And here is a quick look at what I have so far, before listening to the lecture on this poem.  Highlights, underlining (rhymes/slant rhymes/assonance), and a chart looking more closely at her use of verbs in relationship to nouns/adjectives.

I dwell in Possibility— 
A fairer House than Prose
More numerous of Windows

Superiorfor Doors
Of Chambers as the Cedars
Impregnable of Eye
And for an Everlasting Roof 

The Gambrels of the Sky
Of Visitors—the fairest—
For Occupation—This—
The spreading wide my narrow Hands 
To gather Paradise

Looks like blogger doesn't know what to make of a double underline.  Oh well.  So some subtlety is lost. Sorry.

I dwell in Possibility— 
A fairer House5 than Prose1
More6 numerous5 of Windows1
Superior6for6 Doors6a

Of Chambers7 as the Cedars7
Impregnable of Eye2
And for6 an Everlasting Roof 
The Gambrels of the Sky2

Of Visitors6a—the fairest—
For6 Occupation—This3
The spreading wide my narrow Hands 
To gather Paradise3

It seems to me, the pivotal word is This but that's just from one hour of playing with the poem and I know enough to know I'd likely change my mind if I were to read it a few more times.  I also find myself pondering the word dwell which seems to have it's own implications.

Stanza Noun-Singular Noun-Plural Verb Adjective
First Stanza
I Windows dwell fairer
Possibility Doors
numerous
House

Superior
Prose


Second Stanza
Eye Chambers
Impregnable
Roof Cedars
Everlasting
Sky Gambrels

Third Stanza
This Visitors Occupation Fairest
Paradise Hands spreading wide


gather narrow

These are my notes from the discussion/lecture for this poem.  Bold signifies my own thoughts but I admit that towards the end my thoughts become merged for, as you'll see, I wasn't alone in thinking This is significant.


To dwell means both to reside in and to mull over or obsess over something.
Possibility:  capitalization used in 19th century, typical of American 17th century. 
Question:  What about Milne et al writing at this time? 
Possibility:  unlimited options   Possibilityà probability
House of Prose versus her living in possibility
Fairer House = Fairest Visitor 
Fair:  equal, just, also attractive suggesting superior house
Glass is expensive so many windows and doors, highly decorated.
The house of possibility is fairer than a house of prose (possibility is to poetry what ___ is to prose)
Blank = impossibility, limits, restrictions, established, linguistic conventions
Conceit
Windows allow different perspectives, more light, reciprocity of vision/enclosure
Doors hint at reclusive (biographical fallacy?), is she keeping people out?  Prose allows many
Chambers as the Cedars
Chambers are rooms, bedrooms (room tall as cedar trees)
Cedar chest or closet to keep moths away.  Moths attracted to light.  End stage growth of trees tallest in Lebanon. 
Impregnable—can’t see within
Parallels doors that cannot be entered, people kept out, vision also impregnable. 
Working to read the poem, in hopes of entering.
The roof cannot collapse for it is the sky, infinite.  Typically roofs last about a decade.  
The visitors are required to have imagination, to experience the Possibility, the sky’s the limit.
Most equal, most just, most lovely visitors—the fairest.  (contrasted with Whitman who invites everyone in)
Occupation:  work, living,
·         dwelling (dear occupant), permanence of occupation vs. dwelling
·         your job, our life’s work, Emily’s work is done in her home
·         an invader taking a place—to occupy a country
“This” the dash after separates it from what follows in a way that implies a period or semi-colon.  This is the poem.  This.  This.  Indicative.  Poem, the action of writing the poem, creating, creating the self through writing, distinguishing the self separate from all others.  This dwelling in possibility.  This reading, this poem, reading this poem.   


Natural Open Space House Design by Fernanda Marque at Sao Paulo Natural Open Space House Design by Fernanda Marque at Sao Paulo
Image found here.

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