“Aurora is the effort” by Emily Dickinson

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A brand new videopoem by writer (and former film major) James Brush demonstrating one way to make an effective video with a very short, enigmatic text, marrying Dickinson’s cosmic lines with some footage that is literally out of this world. James put up a blog post about it, which I’ll take the liberty of quoting in full:

This is a video I made for Emily Dickinson’s “Aurora is the effort.” I stumbled on the Jupiter aurora footage at ESA/Hubble and wanted to do something with it. I had Dickinson on my mind since we share a birthday, and I often find myself turning to her work around this time of year, so I started searching for aurora-related Dickinson poems and liked this one for its simplicity and unusual syntax and wording. The sounds are radio static and me rubbing the strings and hitting the back of a bass guitar with some effects from garage band.

I’ve been wanting to do a Dickinson poem for years and even have a concept for another one that maybe someday will get done. Thanks for watching.

For an interesting perspective on what Dickinson might’ve been up to in this poem, see Jed Deppman’s Trying to Think With Emily Dickinson (University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), p. 129 ff. (via Google Books). Deppman finds that “Aurora is the effort”

features the kind of deconstructive paradox that both defines and destabilizes many of Dickinson’s definition poems: the category of “the natural” transforms into the others that philosophers have always used to define it by opposition: the “social,” “cultural” and “artificial.” The specific terms the speaker uses to transform cosmology into cosmetics and make heaven’s two-facedness the basis of a definition under erasure derive in part from the idea—circulating in Amherst thanks to Transcendentalism, Ruskin, Hitchcock, and the Hudson River school—that nature mirros God’s consciousness, that, as Barton Levi St. Armand puts it, “the sensuous veil of nature is but a protective covering over the naked creative spirit of the universe.”

It’s worth reading the analysis in full to realize just how much meaning Dickinson could pack into her gnomic verses.

2 Comments

  1. Reply
    James Brush 15 December, 2017

    Thank you for featuring this today and for the link to the analysis.

  2. Reply

    […] December, I made three new videos, one of which was even featured over at Moving Poems (Thanks, Dave!). I thought a lot about how much I miss this sort of thing. The creating, the […]

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