Posted by Michael Fong
March 20, 2009
"This is my letter to the World / That never wrote to Me - / The simple News that Nature told - /With tender Majesty/ Her Message is comitted / To Hands I cannot see - / For love of Her - Sweet - countrymen - / Judge tenderly - of Me" (Emily Dickinson)
What a beautiful set of letters that Dickinson left to the world! The Loaded Gun, the Yellow Eye, the Fly Buzz - everything from a woman who spent the majority of her adult life in seclusion. This is a general observation that could be applied to other poets and other works, but it is interesting as to how the poet immortalizes him or herself through immortalizing certain ideas/people/emotions in their poems. By describing love, religion, and so many other forms of emotions in such a vivid and powerful way, Dickinson left us with the greatest letter of all, the immortalized form of herself: Dickinson, the poet. I find it extremely difficult to write about poems, for what more could be written about them? I mentioned that Whitman's poetry possesses the same sort of timelessness and universal appeal that few poets (e.g., Rumi) have, and I would say that Dickinson's poetry has that same quality too.
I suppose this is a good way to end the quarter, as I have been asked numerous times by my parents and friends: What is practical about being an English major? There's no money in it, there doesn't even seem to be a decent job in it. But literature is so much more than merely reading poems, stories, novels and discussing them and watch professors snipe at each other in universities about them. It is more than making one seem sophisticated by sipping coffee in an outdoor cafe while nodding and reading poems at the same time. It is more than an impressive shelf of books to show to visitors. Literature is the caricature, the representation of humanity at its best (or worst), and it is up to us, the present generation, to preserve it, and to admire it at the same time. This is where the Dickinsons, the Shakespeares, the Austens, the Twains, and others come in. That's what being an English major's about, at least for me. That, and, of course, the joy of reading that comes with it.