Saturday, September 17, 2011


I always think when I'm walking around Amherst, that I could go to Emily Dickinson's house and find her there. I know where her room is. I've been in her house where she looked out the window. I even got to look out of the crow's nest windows at the top of the house, where no one but Emily's ghost usually ever gets to go (during a week I spent at the house a few summers back thanks to a federal grant for schoolteachers from the National Endowment for the Humanities.) I have this sense of missing her, and a sense of her presence from all the poetry, the pictures, the places, the letters, all the things that convey the sense of someone. I feel like I know her better and more personally than some people I know who live in our time now. A lot of people in Amherst and elsewhere probably feel this kind of heart- and mind-based connection with her across time too.

The shape of the absence of someone, is the same shape of their presence, when it is filled in enough. This, I think is the most powerful consolation of art, of poetry, of music. We miss people we love when we no longer share a time of being alive with them, but when they say "Music alone shall live," (as is painted on the wall of the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton) that's what it means to me--that both the presence and the absence of what we appreciate deeply in our heart has a life eternal. In a field of feeling we can experience the presence of souls we love that way--even the ones we never met face to face in life.

Here's a song about that. . .

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