“I dwell in possibility.”
Emily Dickinson, an American poet (1830-1886), was a very private person who rarely left her home. Some called her a recluse because she didn’t leave her room in her later years. When she died, she had written around 1800 poems and less than a dozen were published while she was alive – and those were heavily edited to fit the poetry conventions of the day. After her death, her cache of poetry was found by her younger sister and published – again, heavily edited. It wasn’t until 1955 that her poetry was published almost unaltered.
I was saddened when I read about the editing that was done to Dickinson’s poetry. Poems are not like prose, in that, the poet writes in a certain way for a reason. Clearly, her poems did not fit with the accepted norms of her day for poetry – so the publisher altered them. If Emily Dickinson was writing today, she would have the option of publishing herself as an Indie author!
I must admit that when I first saw this quote, I thought it was interesting, but moved on. After perusing more quotes, I came back to this one; it was almost as if it was calling me! Four simple words – yet packed with potential meanings. I could not turn away again. I had been taken captive! But I wasn’t surprised because these are the words of a renowned poet.
“I Dwell In Possibility” is the title of one of her poems where she explores the wondrous nature of poetry and compares it favorably to prose. As a literary art, Dickinson saw prose as less free or more limiting to both the author and the reader or listener. She compared both to houses: poetry is airy, sports large windows, and has a glass roof leaving one open to limitless possibilities.
As I read about her life, rife with the untimely deaths of friends and family, with whom she had close emotional ties, I began to see how poetry had such a strong appeal to her. She spent a good deal of her life tied down to her house as prime caregiver to her ailing mother. Perhaps, poetry was more than an emotional outlet; it may have served her as an escape from a life full of melancholy. In writing poetry, Emily Dickinson was able to give her imagination free rein, to “dwell in possibility”.
As I reflected on her words, they struck a positive chord within me. I do not consider myself a poet, so I tried to glean a valid application to my life in the twenty-first century. This poet’s mind is firmly planted in the world of what is possible. So often we hear ourselves scoffing at an idea and labeling it as “impossible”. We can come up with any number of reasons why we believe that certain goals can’t be reached, or that a course of action is doomed to failure. We are so quick to dwell in impossibility.
Perhaps, if we opened our minds to consider suggestions or ideas that may, on the surface, seem ludicrous or impossible, we could open ourselves to a brand new world. A new world of possibility within our own minds might manifest itself! “Hey! I can’t write a novel!” or “I can’t market my books to save my life!” are two examples of assertions I’ve made publicly. In the first instance, friends helped me to open my mind to the possibility and gave the encouragement I needed to write that book. I’m still working on changing my mindset about marketing!
I have always loved poetry. I remember my grade 13 English course had a rather thick poetry anthology. Often, when I became bored in class, I would open this favorite tome and devour the poems within. Understandably, I suppose, my preferred section of the collection was the poetry about love and romance. There were times in my life when I actually dabbled and wrote some poems, predominantly of the romantic genre. I never considered them worth anything, except to myself. A few have read them and thought well of them. Perhaps I shall take a page from Emily Dickinson’s book, someday, publish some poems and, thereby, dwell in possibility!