A Certain Slant of Light

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
— Emily Dickinson
* * *
I always look forward to Emily Dickinson when I teach American Literature in the fall.  I save her poems for the final week of class, since then I don’t have to assign much reading when my students are at the end of their mental rope.  But every time we meet to read and discuss her poetry it blows my students’ minds (and mine) just when we think we’ve been getting a handle on American literature.
This year I’ve had a chance to double down on Dickinson.  Our students asked me to teach a course on women writers, and, not wanting to follow tradition and turn that into a course on the history of feminism, I looked around for another way to set a great list of women writers apart from the other works we teach.  “American Women Tell It Slant,” as I’ve called the course, has been a great chance to drink deeply from Dickinson and a lot of other writers who do things differently, whether because of their life experiences, their social opportunities, or their own whimsy.  The planning and reading for the course have left me walking around a bit dumbstruck and considering things from odd angles.  Like my own kitchen.


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2 Responses to A Certain Slant of Light

  1. Mother of the bride says:

    I seek slants of lights for entirely selfish reasons. A) I need daylight or I turn into a lump and a grump. B) I move my plants all around the house trying to provide them a few rays of real light. C) I continually move the cat’s bed into the light so he can warm his 15 year old bones. D) I discover places around the house that need a good dusting – oops!

    I think all of this puts me into the ‘their own whimsy’ category 🙂

  2. Erin says:

    I was amazed at how bright our house felt when we had snow on the ground last week. Finally, it felt like the unrelenting brightness of an Iowa winter! But there are problems with these lovely slants of light. Drunk-on-sunlight cats are lovely and cuddly, but I can far too easily see the drips and streaks in my recent paint jobs on the wall 🙂

    And yes, I only do house cleaning in morning/afternoon bright light!

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