Procrastination is a writer’s best friend, and worst enemy. It is 1:30AM , what am I doing? Meh, working on an assignment for Modern Poetry. Yes, I’ve had all week, but in my mind, Sunday was soooo far away. Sadly, life happens, ergo, that day to write has just disappeared due to shift changes. I’ll have tomorrow eve to re-read and reconfigure if I’ve an epiphany. Feel free to critique away; I’ve bones of steel to balance the humpty dumpty smile.
“What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more.” (Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation”)
An apt statement, written by Sontag in 1964, 100 years after Emily Dickinson wrote poem #214; a poem that seems to explore opening the senses. Untitled poem #214, oft known by its first line, “I taste liquor never brewed”, expresses the poet’s intoxication not with liquor, but with the world around her.
Emily Dickinson, (1830 – 1886) composed poem #214 in 1860. She shared poems via letters with several people at that time, one being Samuel Bowles. Bowles was a family friend who ran a well-respected conservative paper, Springfield Republican. Bowles promoted women writers, and in turn published their poems in his weekly. #214 was one of the four poems of Dickinson’s poetry that was published, though, it seems that she may have kept her anonymity. (White Heat, p.80). Despite these early publications, it wasn’t until 1862 that Dickinson seemed to lay down the gauntlet, declaring her art – her occupation, “This” – as stated in the poem, “I dwell in Possibility”.
“I taste liquor never brewed” is a four stanza (“room”) poem; four lines per stanza, a quatrain. The first stanza contains an almost slant rhyme. The second, third, and fourth stanza continue the rhyme pattern of a/b/c/b. Minus the first stanza, this poem reads as a ballad; it certainly has that jovial nature.
The first stanza starts with a bold declarative, “I taste liquor never brewed “. The conceit of liquor sets this poem; the writer is experiencing a drink that is beyond anything the “Vats upon the Rhine” can produce.
The second stanza, “Inebriate of Air”, she is drunk off the air, and corrupted (Debauchee) by the “Dew”. A curious line, the fourth, “From inns of Molten Blue –”. Inns could denote taverns, ergo, the sky keeps her drunk. The use of “Molten” is interesting, perhaps denoting a hot summer.
The third stanza addresses objects found in nature whose drink is nature. One senses the end of the season, that the “drunken Bee” cannot drink from the “Foxglove” anymore; the Butterflies flowers offer no more “drams”. Dickinson does not need flowers, though, so she “shall but drink more!”
The fourth stanza includes not only nature, but the religious symbols of “Seraphs” and “Saints”. I question who the “Saints” are exactly since they run to the window, as if it is perhaps those closest to Emily, those who did ascribe to the church (she did not). Perhaps that is why, she is the “little Tippler” (drunk), showing them she is beyond the heavens, and can touch the “Sun”.
“I taste a liquor never brewed” is Dickinson’s praise to nature. Nietzsche wrote, “ Art is not an imitation of nature but its metaphysical supplement, raised up beside it in order to overcome it.” Dickinson’s art never imitated nature, as this poem shows, but opened it so the reader could sense something too. ~
(Sidebar – hope to continue with the project I started a few days ago regarding “The Mind’s Own Place”. I was going to post a page a day, but the page yesterday really had no talking points. It is my hopes to visit page three tomorrow after I’ve reinvented the wheel…aka, rewritten this ode to Emily.)