Poetry Friday: Linda Pastan…on Emily Dickinson

Poetry Friday is hosted by the one and only Jama who is sure to provide poetry, and other delicious treats as well….

I am preparing for our unit on Emily Dickinson – a favorite of mine, but an acquired taste for my sixth graders.  They are always mystified by her poems, and yet fascinated by her life.  We “travel to” her home in Amherst:

Read about her life :

Listen to recitations and stories about the power of her poems:

And sift through a few I think they will love.  They smile, question, and wonder.   The poems seem so short, they say, and what’s with the weird punctuation?  A word here a line there will give them pause. And then they are ready to move on.  They will be back, I know, someday…for who can resist Emily Dickinson? 

Emily Dickinson

We think of hidden in a white dress
among the folded linens and sachets
of well-kept cupboards, or just out of sight
sending jellies and notes with no address
to all the wondering Amherst neighbors.
Eccentric as New England weather
the stiff wind of her mind, stinging or gentle,
blew two half imagined lovers off.
Yet legend won’t explain the sheer sanity
of vision, the serious mischief
of language, the economy of pain.

Linda Pastan


10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Linda Pastan…on Emily Dickinson

  1. An interesting study! I'll bet by the end they want to delve into other poets lives and poetry more thoroughly. Or at the very least, they hide a bit away until they are old enough to be intrigued and want to have a better understanding! I find some things were lost on me until I grew older and then when I revisited it, was sad that I didn't have the appropriate appreciation when I was younger.

  2. Now that my daughter is in 6th grade, maybe I should try out Emily Dickinson on her! I was so totally entranced by Yina Liang's Favorite Poetry Project video. She understood and explained that poem so well in the context of her own life. I can't imagine that video not helping other teens (and tweens) to understand Emily Dickinson a bit more.

  3. Wonderful that you venture this study with your students Tara, a gift that will keep on giving to them after they leave your class. I love the videos you shared, have that picture book (a gem) & Pastan's poem, new to me. Thank you for that also. "the stiff wind of her mind" is a marvelous line-I am in awe!

  4. That's a beautiful poem by Linda Pastan, one I've never read. And I love that you give this introduction. I look back on many poems I didn't understand at the time and am grateful for the introducer. And it's good to know not everything must or can be understood. I went to a workshop given at the library in Amherst led by Marilyn Nelson where she read from her very well worn volume of ED with post-its sticking out everywhere, and people making comments that stuck out every which way, too — all wonderful.

  5. What a wonderful post, Tara — once again, I wish I could be in your class, especially after hearing about this unit. Enjoyed the videos and Pastan's poem is a gem.

  6. Tara, I have loved following your blog and your inspiration as a reading and writing teacher. Thanks for sharing your journey! When I read your post of today, I couldn't help but respond. As fate would step in, I discovered a new blog tonight and a post there that highlights an Israeli singer songwriter performing Emily Dickenson's, I'm Nobody. Wondering if you are aware of it. Pretty cool that Emily's poetry reaches so far into the future and into all kinds of communities. I enjoyed the 21st Century interpretation. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/10/05/efrat-ben-zur-robin-emily-dickinson/

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