PAD 5 — Breaking Dickinson

Five days in and I have stayed consistent with the posting! Just 25 more to go, right? Anyway, today NaPoWriMo calls for a slightly more detailed prompt. I am not sure how I feel about the exercise–I understand the benefits, but I am not completely sold on it. It is also a bit too long to paraphrase so I will just paste the prompt:

Today’s prompt (optional, as always) is a variation on a teaching exercise that the poet Anne Boyer uses with students studying the work of Emily Dickinson. As you may know, although Dickinson is now considered one of the most original and finest poets the United States has produced, she was not recognized in her own time. One reason her poems took a while to gain a favorable reception is their slippery, dash-filled lines. Those dashes baffled her readers so much that the 1924 edition of her complete poems replaced some with commas, and did away with others completely. Today’s exercise asks you to do something similar, but in the interests of creativity, rather than ill-conceived “correction.” Find an Emily Dickinson poem – preferably one you’ve never previously read – and take out all the dashes and line breaks. Make it just one big block of prose. Now, rebreak the lines. Add words where you want. Take out some words. Make your own poem out of it!


I chose “The Soul has Bandaged Moments” by Dickinson. I liked the message of it so I didn’t really change too much, but there is definitely some altering, so you can compare as you wish.

“The Soul has Bandaged Moments”

The Soul has bandaged moments 

where, too appalled to stir,

she feels some ghastly Fright.

Come up and stop to look at her.

Salute her.

With long fingers caress her freezing hair.

Sip, demons, from the very lips the Lover hovered o’er unworthy, 

Inconceivable. Unjust.

That a thought so mean accost a Theme so fair.

The soul has moments of escape.

Bursting all the doors she dances like a bomb.

Swinging upon the hours, 

as do the Bee, delirious borne, long dungeoned from his rose

touch liberty then know no more but spring’s nectar.  

This Paradise.

The Soul’s retaken moments.

But felony appears along, clamps shackles on her plumed feet

staples the song. 

The Horror welcomes her, again. 

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