Summer 2014 • Vol. XXXVI No. 3 A SYMPOSIUM ON EMILY DICKINSONJuly 1, 2014 |

Wings

Emily Dickinson brings up birds in some 220 of her roughly 1,800 poems. Mostly she mentions them as contributions to the texture: as an analogue, a simile, a comparison, a detail, or a member of a list, like this list from 1858: Nobody knows this little Rose— It might a pilgrim be Did I not take it from the ways And lift it up to thee. Only a Bee will miss it— Only a Butterfly, Hastening from far journey— On its breast to lie— Only a Bird will wonder— Only a Breeze will sigh— Ah Little Rose—how easy For such as thee to die! When we sample other bird references, we come up with such questions and answers as—Does the morning have "feathers like a bird"? or if "Water, is taught by Thirst" and "Land—by the Oceans passed," then birds are taught "by Snow." Or if Eden is "Old fashioned," then "Birds are antiquated fellows!" And "the only Ghost I ever saw … was soundless, like the Bird." And as an unnamed cat "sights a Bird," it "chuckles." Sometimes a bird

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Stanley Plumly’s most recent book of poems is Orphan Hours (W.W. Norton, 2012). His collection Old Heart won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2015, his book of prose The Immortal Evening won the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism. Plumly is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. In 2010 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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