American Icons: Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Feature

Friday, July 23, 2010

Because I Could Not Stop for Death Feature Card_Big2

How did Emily Dickinson's unusual poem about death become standard high school curriculum?

Emily Dickinson is one of those writers whose life is as famous as her writing. After Emily Dickinson died, her sister found nearly two thousand poems in her bureau, all ready for publication. In a surprising number of those poems, Emily Dickinson was writing from beyond the grave. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," Dickinson’s fantasy of getting picked up by the grim reaper, has become standard reading curriculum in English classes across America — but it’s still a very strange work of art. For our series on American Icons, WBUR's Sean Cole — a poet himself — took a closer look at Dickinson's legendary work.

Contributors:

Sean Cole

Comments [1]

jane trechsel from Birmingham, AL

Re" your program on Emily Dickinson. Someone highlighted a line in "Because I could not Stop For Death" the line was "we passed the fields of gazing grain" and said "what does that mean? No one knows." Oh sir, many of us know.

Perhaps one has to have the mystic temperament( as Emily did ) to understand the phrase. The intuitive knowledge that human consciousness is not the only consciousness.. Humans are seen and felt by all of creation because we are not separate. We interpenetrate. We are observed as well as observers. I adore the idea of a field of grain gazing at me as I pass.

p.s. I am an actress and have performed as Emily hundreds of times in "The Belle of Amherst" I recited this very poem to a tour group in her bedroom one time, many years ago. I am 70 years old now and retired...but over a period of 23 years I was privileged to share and channel Emily's soul which is essentially all our souls.

May. 18 2008 12:10 PM

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