Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Emily Dickinson on her Calling

The Province of the Saved
Should be the Art – To save –
Through Skill obtained in Themselves –
The Science of the Grave

No Man can understand
But He that has endured
The Dissolution – in Himself –
That Man – be qualified

To qualify Despair
To Those who failing new –
Mistake Defeat for Death – Each time –
Till acclimated – to –

To me, this poem describes the poet who has suffered trauma, found "salvation" in writing, and then recognized her calling as the writing of poems, the giving of testimony that will help others to cope with trauma. She and her poems are proof that people can survive extreme physical and psychological states. Her poems help the sufferer to make the crucial distinction between suffering as setback and suffering as utter annihilation. Dickinson may claim, as she does in a letter of consolation to a bereaved friend, Mrs. J. G. Holland, that “there are depths in every Consciousness, from which we cannot rescue ourselves – to which none can go with us – which represent to us Mortally – the Adventure of Death” (L555), but in fact, many of her poems do just that: they accompany us to depths within us that we could not bear alone, and they invite us to ascend to heights with her, through her poems, that we could not dare alone. - Gregory Orr