Poet: Emily Dickinson

“Hope is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson

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Moving Poems’ latest in-house production attempts to put Emily Dickinson’s famous poem in its historical context. I used clips from a public-domain educational film, “Civil War,” by Encyclopaedia Brittanica Films, 1954, from the Prelinger Archives, and found an excellent recording of a wood thrush at the equally invaluable freesound.org. But the most essential ingredient here, I think, was the reading by Nic S.. As Julie Martin put it in a comment on my blog post introducing the video,

Nic’s reading is masterful. Dickinson is so condensed and elliptical that her work seems impossible to read aloud, much like the unplayable late string quartets of Beethoven. But Nic invests each word with a different weight; she doesn’t play with expectations, but transcends them.

“They dropped like Flakes” by Emily Dickinson

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Christopher Gains writes,

An adaptation of an Emily Dickinson poem. Created as a filmmaking challenge with some friends, this was made in under 20 hours, and served as a testing ground for a new camera and lenses.

Poem read by Nori Barber, music by Osmodius Bell

“Heaven is so far of the Mind” by Emily Dickinson

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A new Moving Poems production. This is from 1862, #413 in the R. W. Franklin edition, and while not one of Dickinson’s greatest poems, it does encapsulate, I think, one of her core beliefs, and is therefore a useful key to understanding her work as a whole. I couldn’t resist adding an ironic visual reference to one of her most famous poems.

“I reason, Earth is short” by Emily Dickinson

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Another animation by Francesca Talenti. You can watch dozens, maybe hundreds of Emily Dickinson videos on YouTube and not find anything so free of cliché as this.

I reason, Earth is short—
And Anguish—absolute—
And many hurt,
But, what of that?

I reason, we could die—
The best Vitality
Cannot excel Decay,
But, what of that?

I reason, that in Heaven—
Somehow, it will be even—
Some new Equation, given—
But, what of that?

“I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson

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The first two stanzas of Dickinson’s poem as animated by Laura O’Brien and some collaborators (full credits at the end). The complete poem may be read at Poets.org.

Note to regular readers: I’m scaling back from five to four posts a week here (though some weeks I may still publish five posts if I happen to have the material). Locating good poetry videos is becoming a little more difficult now, and I am wary of turning what should be a joy into a chore.

I Heard a … When I Died

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“A contemporary interpretation of a poem written by Emily Dickinson on life/death from the perspective of the fly,” says the filmmaker, Sasha Sumner. A brilliant little short which shows that sometimes a great soundtrack is almost all you need to make your point. (For a video of the complete poem, see Lynn Tomlinson’s clay-on-glass animation.)

“A word made Flesh…” by Emily Dickinson

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A fascinating linguistic deconstruction of the poet’s lines just uploaded to Vimeo yesterday, by one Eliza Fitzhugh, for Dickinson’s 179th birthday. The multiple accents should remind us that now more than ever, with the advent of the web, Dickinson’s poetry belongs to the world. I spend some time yesterday looking up favorite Dickinson poems on popular poem-sharing sites and reading appreciative comments from places like Iran, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan — the traditional Sufi heartland. I had always thought her work would translate well to an audience weaned on Hafiz, Rumi, and Khayyam.

Here’s the text from R. W. Franklin’s variorum edition (the video repeats lines 9-10 for a conclusion):

A Word made Flesh is seldom
And tremblingly partook
Nor then perhaps reported
But have I not mistook
Each one of us has tasted
With ecstasies of stealth
The very food debated
To our specific strength –

A Word that breathes distinctly
Has not the power to die
Cohesive as the Spirit
It may expire if He –
“Made Flesh and dwelt among us”
Could condescension be
Like this consent of Language
This loved Philology.