Friday, November 28, 2014
The Hopper and a Slant of Light
A 9x12 pastel of the Hopper, this time from Field Farm, on a winter afternoon, located a considerable distance from Haley Farm, which is directly on the other side of the ridge on which that v-shaped clearing is visible.
Since I've been reading the essays of Robert Hass, I want to focus on one, "Notes on Poetry and Spirituality," in which Hass discusses the Emily Dickinson poem that starts, "There's a certain Slant of light / Winter Afternoons--". He writes, "So a young woman in Emily Dickinson's world had seen that moment... that astonishing moment when a person becomes a body; it's an unmistakable experience. She's talking about, very accurately about, a thing she's seen more than once. When this feeling of despair, this hurt, comes on her, the landscape is alive, and when it goes, when the hurt goes, it's like the soul leaving the body. And deadening it just that way."
He goes on, "So, in this poem... she's talking only about only being alive with this painful sense of absence, but a divine sense of it, or at least it seems to me a sense of absence, or at least a sense of an intuition whose namelessness is its quality, so much its quality that it hurts... the choice is between a kind of pain and a kind of deadness, and she would choose the pain any day."
Dickinson's poem is about light in a winter landscape, in which the landscape is like a person on the edge of life, and the beauty of the lighted landscape suggests to her a wonderful supernatural presence that she feels is missing, absent, gone, unresponsive, a painful image that she would rather experience than give in to any comforting explanation.