FATE slew him, but he did not drop;
She felled—he did not fall—
Impaled him on her fiercest stakes—
He neutralized them all.

She stung him, sapped his firm advance,
But, when her worst was done,
And he, unmoved, regarded her,
Acknowledged him a man.

~Emily Dickinson

Happy Monday! If ever there was a poetic battle cry for a Monday morning, this is it. May you not drop, not fall, and neutralize all Fate’s fiercest stakes. Let’s do this!

Words of encouragement

Read, sweet, how others strove,
Till we are stouter;
What they renounced,
Till we are less afraid;
How many times they bore
The faithful witness,
Till we are helped,
As if a kingdom cared!

Read then of faith
That shone above the fagot;
Clear strains of hymn
The river could not drown;
Brave names of men
And celestial women,
Passed out of record
Into renown!

~Emily Dickinson

There is something rather un-Emily like about this poem. I don’t know if it’s that she usually isn’t trying to buck anybody up, or if it’s the more straightforward voice, or the address at the beginning, which sounds somehow more sonnet-y than usual.

Your prompt is to write some words of encouragement, and put them somewhere to be found and read.

Take your power in your hand!

I took my power in my hand
And went against the world;
’T was not so much as David had,
But I was twice as bold.

I aimed my pebble, but myself
Was all the one that fell.
Was it Goliath was too large,
Or only I too small?

~Emily dickinson

Pam: April is making me feel like the speaker in this poem.

Brenna: SAME. April is already kicking my tail and it’s only ten days old.

Pam: Trying to do big things, being thwarted because in the end, I am too small. Remember when we thought March would be better than February??

Brenna: We were so young and innocent….

Pam: It makes me wonder if I’ll look as these months as Goliaths later in life.

Brenna: They feel like Goliaths to me now. But maybe the actual Goliath is lurking around the corner. That’s a depressing thought.

Pam: No no no, we’re only looking at current Goliaths!

Brenna: Ok, good! So. What are we to make of this poem? Is it a cautionary tale? I know it ends with her failure, but I’m kind of in love with those first couple lines. I want to take my power in my hand. That sounds like some serious magical badassery.

Pam: I think we can look at it two ways. Sure, it’s a failure. But do you stop at failure? Why write the poem, then? Maybe the speaker is trying to dissect this failure so that next time, they’ll have a different result.

Brenna: Ah, I like that! Why tell the tale of your failure if not for some greater purpose?

Pam: It’s too bold in the beginning for me to think that this is just about failure. Somebody who is taking power in their hand is not going to give up. Or at least, that’s my hope.

Brenna: So maybe she’s encouraging us. Even someone as small as herself (there’s Lil’ Emily again….) can defy a giant, so we can too!

Pam: Why is she always diminutive, do you think?

Brenna: It strikes me as a little weird. Did women value being small back then? I thought the ideal was statuesque. Is she being purposefully different? Going against the grain? Or highlighting how small she feels?

Pam: It seems like the kind of petty thing I would do if someone called me small. “You think I’m small? I’ll show you what small can do!” You knew this was coming, but the rhymes in this poem are interesting!

Brenna: Tell me more!

Pam: They’re close, but a little bit slanty, in stanza one. Hand/had, world/bold. And then stanza two blows it up a little bit! fell/small, sure. It’s slant, but it works. But myself/large? In no way does this even begin to rhyme! Is this meant to show us how very large she is not? The rhyme in that stanza is disjointed, and I’m wondering what, if anything, it has to tell us.

Brenna: She is feeling disjointed/small in comparison to the world?

Pam: Her rhyme is tighter when she’s about to act. She’s gathering power, slinging it. The rhyme comes undone after, when she’s lost

Brenna: Ooooh, that’s good! Yes! Just like the slingshot!

Pam: Yes! We are on it today. This is what I love about poetry. Everybody brings life experience to the table, and you can still choose to not accept the poem at face value. We choose to read this poem not about failure, but about talking yourself up for another try!


Our share of night to bear,
Our share of morning,
Our blank in bliss to fill,
Our blank in scorning.

Here a star, and there a star,
Some lose their way.
Here a mist, and there a mist,

~Emily Dickinson

This is for everyone who, after struggling through February, emerged hopefully into March to discover that it’s actually February in disguise. It’s below freezing here in what is supposed to be the South. The daffodils are having second thoughts. Sometimes things are not what they ought to be, or what we want them to be. Here’s to making our way through the mist into the light of day, of spring, of fresh hopes and dreams realized.