Steadily I have been reading The Life of Emily Dickinson by Richard Sewall. I find many affinities and parallels between her poetry, her need to write poetry, her religious outlook, her love of nature, and my own frequent drawing and painting. Below is a quote from a footnote, no less, from an article by Roland Hagenbuchle, quoted by Sewall. Painting nature with its changing light, the involvement in the present moment, the inability to capture this fleeting moment, the need to react expressively and creatively in a visual way to one's surroundings, painting quick, small, suggestive pictures, and the perilous contingency of this constant endeavor are some of the affinities and parallels that, to my mind, link her poetry to the painting I do. The quote:
The...concentration of the "critical" moment [the "Now"] is a crucial element in Emily Dickinson's poetry...It finds expression, first iconically, in the epigrammatic shortness of her poems, second thematically, in the numerous descriptions of unstable phenomena in nature such as the rising and setting of the sun or its precarious poise at the meridian hour of noon, the changing of the seasons at the solstices and certain fleeting effects of light in general. It can further be observed in the elliptical and often ambiguous syntax (including the hyphen), and finally in the use of polysemantic and often precariously unstable words and expressions. The world's drama is enacted before her eyes as a process or, to use her own words, as "God's Experiment"... The reversal from being into nothingness (and vice-versa) takes place anew at every moment, as "a gun...that touched 'goes off'". This eminently dialectic principle foredooms every attempt to pursue the romantic quest by means of analogy or metaphor. The poet experiences each instant of life and, even more so, that of death as a "critical" turning point or crisis:
Crisis is a Hair
Toward which forces creep
Past which forces retrograde
The nature of a turning point is such that it simply eludes all our attempts to grasp it...
If indeed existence proves to be a continuous crisis, we begin to understand why the poet preferably portrays moments of precarious poise between "advance" and "retrograde."