Poet: Emily Dickinson

“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.

I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died by Emily Dickinson

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Poem by Emily Dickinson:

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portions of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –

With Blue – uncertain stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –

Video by Lynn Tomlinson. It won the Keith Clarke Prize for animation at the 1989 Ann Arbor Film Festival.

An eerie adaptation of the Emily Dickinson poem, told from after death. Created in clay-on-glass animation. This was my first film in this technique, made in 1989.

There are a number of other animations of this poem on YouTube, but none of them hold a candle to this one. Its only major flaw is the pixelation — perhaps the artist was trying to protect her work from being ripped off. In addition to the YouTube page linked above, Tomlinson has a proper website here.

[UPDATE 11/29/09] For a much higher quality version, see the video gallery on Tomlinson’s website.

[UPDATE 2/13/12] Higher-resolution version at Vimeo swapped in (see comments).

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