The end.

Went up a year this evening!
I recollect it well!
Amid no bells nor bravos
The bystanders will tell!
Cheerful, as to the village,
Tranquil, as to repose,
Chastened, as to the chapel,
This humble tourist rose.
Did not talk of returning,
Alluded to no time
When, were the gales propitious,
We might look for him;
Was grateful for the roses
In life’s diverse bouquet,
Talked softly of new species
To pick another day.
Beguiling thus the wonder,
The wondrous nearer drew;
Hands bustled at the moorings—
The crows respectful grew.
Ascended from our vision
To countenances new!
A difference, a daisy,
Is all the rest I knew!

~Emily Dickinson
Image by Matej via Pexels.

This is it–the final post of The Emily Project. A little over a year ago, looking forward at the prospect of a fresh, crisp 2019, I wanted to find a book of daily poetry for the year–by a woman. I looked, and looked, and found exactly…nothing. Sure that I was missing something, I complained to my friend Pam. She said, essentially, hang on. When she popped back into our chat, she hadn’t found anything either. But we could create our own poem-a-day blog, she suggested. And so, The Emily Project was born.

When we began, we alternated posts. Sometimes we wrote joint posts as dialogues. I always learned the most from those. Pam is a talented poet, and has a way of seeing all the nuances I miss. After a month or so, we figured out a posting schedule. We really had no idea what we were doing, aside from posting an Emily Dickinson poem a day.

Of course, life intervened, as it does. Sick kids and work schedules and general life drama intervened. The stresses of daily life intervened. I’ve been flying solo on this project since some time in April. Some days I’ve had epiphanies about poems I had read many times but never fully understood. A lot of times, I slapped poems up on the blog with only cursory comments. But the comments were never the point. The idea was to create something that didn’t exist, something that needed to–a “book” of poems by a female poet, with one poem chosen more or less carefully for the day.

Perhaps my biggest achievement of this project was that selection. Some of the poems are the well-known ones, the oft-anthologized ones. But many of them are hidden gems, poems I’d never heard of before. Often these became my favorites. Emily Dickinson’s mind is a weird, wonderful, vast expanse.

I’m still reflecting on this project–I probably will be for a long time. I’m a slow processor. I’ve also never been good at daily endeavors–the kind of continuous practice many people engage in, in which they do A Thing every. single. day. I admire these people and their practices. I’ve just never been good at this stuff. I let everything else get in the way. Maybe it’s because I’m a slow processor–doing something Every Single Day doesn’t always allow me the time I need to mull over a day’s doings. I’m not sure. I’m still processing that, too.

I didn’t always post poems on time. Sometimes I’d have to backtrack several days at a time. This post, which should have been December 31st’s, is getting written at 11:50 p.m. on January 1st because I got massively sick to my stomach just in time for New Year’s Eve. My excuses are not always so good. But. The important thing is this: this blog now contains an Emily Dickinson poem for each day of the year.

I am grateful for the roses in life’s diverse bouquet. And I am only 23 hours and 59 minutes late in posting this last post, dangit.

Happy New Year! Thanks for joining me at whatever point on this journey.

Beyond time

GREAT streets of silence led away
To neighborhoods of pause;
Here was no notice, no dissent,
No universe, no laws.

By clocks ’t was morning, and for night
The bells at distance called;
But epoch had no basis here,
For period exhaled.

~Emily Dickinson

How do you write about nothing? How do you imagine it–how is it even possible to conceive of? Dickinson’s description in this poem reminds me of Ursula K. LeGuin’s depiction of the land of the dead in her Earthsea books.

Both LeGuin and Dickinson conceive of death as a paradoxical place of nowhereness, a thing of nothing.

Out of joint

ARCTURUS is his other name,—
I ’d rather call him star!
It ’s so unkind of science
To go and interfere!

I pull a flower from the woods,—
A monster with a glass
Computes the stamens in a breath,
And has her in a class.

Whereas I took the butterfly
Aforetime in my hat,
He sits erect in cabinets,
The clover-bells forgot.

What once was heaven, is zenith now.
Where I proposed to go
When time’s brief masquerade was done,
Is mapped, and charted too!

What if the poles should frisk about
And stand upon their heads!
I hope I ’m ready for the worst,
Whatever prank betides!

Perhaps the kingdom of Heaven’s changed!
I hope the children there
Won’t be new-fashioned when I come,
And laugh at me, and stare!

I hope the father in the skies
Will lift his little girl,—
Old-fashioned, naughty, everything,—
Over the stile of pearl!

~Emily Dickinson
Image via Pexels.com

Let’s do another prompt! Because it’s NaNo season, and that’s how my brain is operating, apparently..

What I love about this poem is the way it articulates a sneaking suspicion that many of us have–that we were born in the wrong time, that our attitudes and priorities are so different from those of the majority that we’re not sure we belong here.

So your prompt is this–pick a character (sure, you could choose your MC, but what if you chose the villain?) and write about their favorite time in history that isn’t their own. Why does it appeal to them? Do they feel like they’d belong better there? What does this out-of-jointness say about them, and how does it affect their actions? dress? attitudes? behaviors? You might unlock something really interesting.

Esoteric time

’T WAS later when the summer went
Than when the cricket came,
And yet we knew that gentle clock
Meant nought but going home.

’T was sooner when the cricket went
Than when the winter came,
Yet that pathetic pendulum
Keeps esoteric time.

~Emily Dickinson

So much human thought is devoted to time, which bemuses me, since time is something we’ve constructed. We invented it, and then got ourselves all bent out of shape over it. We talk about time management, worry about it, pay people to do it for us. And yet we never quite seem to fully understand it. We’ve created a creature that’s grown beyond our understanding. Esoteric indeed.

Autumn is almost here. Monday is the Autumn Equinox. The sun will cross the equator and we will cross into the dark side of the year. We will celebrate the darkness at Halloween, and then in December we will light a hundred thousand million lights to try to hold it back.

Our relationship with time is a fascinating one.

Time trembles

LOOK back on time with kindly eyes,
He doubtless did his best;
How softly sinks his trembling sun
In human nature’s west!

~Emily Dickinson

Years ago, I worked as a professional organizer and time management consultant. As a fledgling organizer, I read books, took online courses, and absorbed as much as I could about the ways in which we use space and time, and how to make better use of them. This poem is recalling those experiences and that knowledge for me now, because it is a plea to humans to change their perspective of time, which is much of what time management consulting is about.

The fact that the speaker needs to begin this way–even needs to write this poem at all–says something about human nature. We tend not to “look back on time with kindly eyes.” We blame time for our own shortcomings–there wasn’t enough time, I didn’t have enough time, it took too much time, who has time for that? Time, rather than our own failure to use it wisely, takes the blame. I think a huge part of that is our own Western view of time as linear, as opposed to other ways of understanding time as a circle or spiral that loops back on itself.

Whenever we don’t have enough time, it’s not time itself that’s to blame. It’s our use of time–but it’s so much easier to just say, It’s not my fault, I didn’t get enough time.

The line about the “trembling sun” is especially evocative of our attitudes towards time. Why is the sun “trembling”–is it because we’ve exhausted time? because time has learned to fear us? a little of both? Either way, it doesn’t sound positive. With our attitudes toward and use of time, we make time itself tremble.

A timely reminder

I had no time to hate, because
The grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I
Could finish enmity.

Nor had I time to love; but since
Some industry must be,
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me.

~Emily Dickinson

The world seems so hate-filled lately. The news is full of accusations and phobic people, the internet is full of trolls, and people “unfriend” each other over online spats.

But who has time for that?

Life is short. There’s barely enough time to love anybody, let alone hate. Love is enough to keep anyone busy for a lifetime.

Rusty ammunition

The past is such a curious creature,
To look her in the face
A transport may reward us,
Or a disgrace.


Unarmed if any meet her,
I charge him, fly!
Her rusty ammunition
Might yet reply!

~emily dickinson

What a weird little poem! The meter is what strikes me first–it’s mixed-up, the last lines of both stanzas coming short and abrupt on the heels of the more typical longer lines before. The first line of the poem is noticeably, awkwardly longer than any of the rest, too, giving the whole poem a choppy feel.

Is this what Dickinson is going for? She’s delving into the past–into our experience of it from the present, and the ways in which it can either affirm or negate us. Perhaps she’s set up this awkward pacing to echo the hesitance with which the speaker approaches the idea of the past, or her own past in particular.

In the first stanza, the speaker begins with the positive–past memories may reward us with happiness. But in the last line of the stanza, she presents an alternative–the past may be a disgrace. It’s the second notion she sticks with for the entirety of the second stanza, elaborating that the past is dangerous. You must approach it with caution, armed against whatever you may find. The past may be gone, but it’s still potent–it still has the power to wound via “rusty ammunition.”

The description of the past in this poem makes it sound like an adversary–it’s described in militant terms. The past is not necessarily our ally. The poem’s final image calls to mind, for me, a grizzled, at least slightly mad old Civil War veteran sitting on his porch, yelling at kids to get off his lawn while balancing an ancient firearm across his knees. Is it loaded? Maybe not. Maybe. Does it work? Do you want to find out?

“Forgot”

There is a word
Which bears a sword
Can pierce an armed man.
It hurls its barbed syllables,—
At once is mute again.
But where it fell
The saved will tell
On patriotic day,
Some epauletted brother
Gave his breath away.


Wherever runs the breathless sun,
Wherever roams the day,
There is its noiseless onset,
There is its victory!
Behold the keenest marksman!
The most accomplished shot!
Time’s sublimest target
Is a soul “forgot”!

~Emily dickinson

I like the way this poem is a riddle that contains its own answer–it reminds me a little of the Old English riddle poems. Dickinson’s subject is a weighty one–the forgetting of souls. Some of Dickinson’s poems express a fear that the poet will slip into obscurity, but this one feels different–she’s being more philosophical here, I think. The forgotten soul is time’s target, ironically, in that time does not remember it. It’s a strange elision.

Whether she’s talking about herself or souls in general, though, there’s also a poignancy to this poem. The image of the wounded soldier forgotten on the battlefield clinches this, but it’s something many (most? all?) of us think about–who will remember us when we are gone? Will anyone? Does what we do now matter?