Emily Dickinson: I’m Nobody! Who are you?

[  # 76 of My Favourite Short Poems  ]

Emily Dickinson

This is the third in a Monday sequence of poems, by three very different poets,but all of which have been composed as soul-searching expressions of the sense of self or the search for the same.

This is one of Emily Dickinson’s most quoted poems, short and to the point, in which she takes a more positive, if seemingly down-beat, stance on the subject.

Its memorable opening lines, grab the reader’s interest with their boldness and certainty.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

I think she is revelling in the fact that she is not well-known as a poet.  She, in fact, is enjoying her anonymity.  Apart from a very few, her poems were not published until after she died, and the freedom which this gave her from the publicity and pressures which fame can bring, she greatly valued.  So very different from the uncertainties and lack of self-esteem from which both John Clare and Sylvia Plath suffered.

 

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Am I a POET?

 

calliope

CALLIOPE: the muse who presides over eloquence and epic poetry; 

Am I a POET?

I’m a poet!  Who are you?
Are you a Poet, too?
 
Do I write poetry?
I say I do;
But is it poetry I write?
What say you?

 Was it by sweated brow,
By haunted vision,
I overcame my indecision?

 Did Damascene insights,
Or inspiration’s muse,
Give birth
To my poetic views?

 This begs the question
Long undecided:
Am I a Poet,
Famed or derided?


 

I wrote a poem the other day,
or was it just words
in a different order,
pretending
to have their own reason for existence?

Such feelings are
The price I pay;
when I say
I am a poet
am I honest,
do I really know it?

Addressing myself
I’ve learned to ask,
and every time I pen a poem
I set myself this very task . . .


Can I really
hand on heart
claim to be
a tiny part
of all those great
illustrious sages
who’ve coloured
life’s dramatic pages
in epics, sonnets,
ballads and odes,
presenting prose
in verbal codes,
fantasising fecund dreams,
massaging thoughts and wild ideas,
composing their Byronic idylls,
word music of the spheres?

The net result,
always the same,
I know I’ll have
no claim to fame.

Such images,
they prove to me,
that shallow thoughts,
marshmallow words,
can never in a thousand years,
however many sweated tears,
make me one of their poetic peers.

 


 

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