Tag Archives: introvert

“There is Another Sky” by Emily Dickinson

EmilyDickinson

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields—
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

Recently, my friend Nancy posted one of those quizzes on Facebook to see which “famous poem was written about you.” I got this one, which I had never read before. So, I figured if it was written about me, I should probably read it (LOL).

Since I confess not being familiar with Emily Dickinson’s works (bad English major), I did a quick search and learned that she was very introverted, even more so than I am. I also learned that Austin, mentioned in the poem, was her brother. There seems to be a lot of speculation online regarding Emily’s relationship to Austin, which some claim was incestuous. The first time I read through this poem, I could see how people could make that assumption. But I decided I should clear my mind of this preconception and read it again objectively.

As a somewhat reclusive introvert, I am very familiar with the joy of escaping into my own world of imagination, which for me includes music, reading, writing, films, solitary walks in the woods, and such. I sense that Emily created her own world within her mind, one of beauty and serenity. From the little bit I read about Austin, I know that he was a lawyer and I can only assume not one who spent a lot of time indulging his imagination. As such, I see this poem as Emily’s invitation to her brother to share her thoughts, to enter the realm of her imagination and share in the joys of creative expression. I see her garden as a symbol for the fertile part of her mind from which her poetic flowers grew and blossomed. She is inviting him in to her secret, secluded world, to see who she is deep inside, and allow him to understand who she is and how she expresses her inner self.

In our modern society, it is easy to take a cynical view of things, especially artistic expression. I’m guilty of this on occasion. But with this poem, I am going to say that I think it is a genuine expression of caring for her brother and wanting to share who she is inside with him. I suspect I will be reading more of Emily’s poems in the near future. Let me know if you have a favorite.

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“The Albatross” by Charles Baudelaire

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Often, for pastime, mariners will ensnare
The albatross, that vast sea-bird who sweeps
On high companionable pinion where
Their vessel glides upon the bitter deeps.

Torn from his native space, this captive king
Flounders on the deck in stricken pride,
And pitiably lets his great white wing
Drag like a heavy paddle at his side.

This rider of winds, how awkward he is, and weak!
How droll he seems, who lately was all grace!
A sailor pokes a pipestem into his beak;
Another, hobbling, mocks his trammeled pace.

The Poet is like this monarch of the clouds,
Familiar with storms, of stars, and of all high things;
Exiled on earth amidst its hooting crowds,
He cannot walk, borne down by his giant wings.

(Translation by Richard Wilbur)

When I started reading this poem, I was expecting allusions to Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Instead, I was thrust in front of a mirror and forced to see myself reflected in Baudelaire’s words.

I confess—I’m a bit of a dork, I’m introverted, and I can be socially awkward. I am certainly more interested in lofty ideas than in team sports or what Kim Kardashian is doing. As a result, I have frequently felt like an outsider, like the albatross flopping on the deck. As a kid, I was subjected to taunting and humiliation. Thankfully, over the years, I have learned to be OK with who I am and not try to play a role just to fit in socially. Also, being a dork is kind of cool now. Strange how paradigms change.

Like the Poet Baudelaire, I revel in the clouds of my thoughts and imagination; I am familiar with the storms of my passions and emotions; I reach for the stars; and I long for high things such as wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual growth. This poem lets me know that I am not alone, that there are others, like me, who share my passions and interests. I know I’m not the only albatross out there.

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“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot

I realized that in my last blog post I might have been a little harsh on the modernists, so I decided to balance my criticism by reviewing a modernist poem that I think is truly an amazing work, and that is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” This poem is a masterpiece that successfully evokes imagery and emotion in a way that the average person can relate to, while at the same time incorporating allusions and imagery that will challenge erudite readers. I have to say, as far as poetry goes, this is flawless.

The poem is essentially the musings of a person nearing the end of his life and contemplating what he has and has not done. This is a feeling everyone can relate to, regardless of age. Who can honestly say they have not sat alone and relived scenarios from their past, or played out events in their heads where the outcomes were different, running through the endless possibilities?

The poem is prefaced with a quote from Dante’s Inferno (Canto 27; Lines 61 – 66), which is followed by what may be the greatest opening lines ever:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;

The first two lines are kind of the set up, creating a pleasant sense that is then slaughtered by the third line. This sets up the motif of juxtaposition that carries through the rest of the poem, where images of sickness and death are superimposed upon those of beauty and life.

The following short stanza repeats several times throughout the poem, almost like a refrain:

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

Something about this has haunted me for years, but I could never put my finger on why until today. Prufrock finds himself in a social situation, where people are engaged, talking with each other and comfortably interacting. But Prufrock is alone, an outsider who is unable to participate in the play of life that unfolds before him. He is a classic introvert. This explains why the lines affect me on such a visceral level, because like Prufrock, I am painfully introverted and feel like an outsider in social situations, watching life unfold before me but unable to step in and participate. Even as I write this, I feel like I am somehow going through a cathartic experience.

There is one more line that I want to write about:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

This line is deeper than it appears. While it sounds like what is being stated is that he was not meant to be Hamlet, we must keep in mind the classic “to be or not to be.” It is a rephrasing of the great existential question and he is saying that he is not meant to live, to participate, or to be a part of existence. Hamlet, despite his hesitance, eventually acts, and then dies tragically and magnificently at the end. But not Prufrock. He feels that his life has been little more than a “Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

While this has turned into one of the longer blog posts I’ve written, there is still so much to say about this poem. You can read it over and over and continue to uncover new ideas and imagery. This is, without question, poetry at its finest.

Click here to read the poem online.

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Introversion in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

PerksOfBeingWallflowerOne of my daughters recently bought The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and read it in a day. She liked it a lot and suggested I read it too, so I did. It is a quick read and even though I am certainly not a teenager anymore, I definitely related to the story and the characters in it.

The book is written as an epistolary, where the protagonist, Charlie, writes letters to an unknown friend detailing his thoughts and experiences as he tries to fit in with his high school friends. Charlie is a classic introvert, and since I am also introverted, I really connected with him. I think that people who are not introverts don’t understand what it is like to be one. I suspect that they feel introverts are unsocial, weird, or that we just don’t like to talk. This is absolutely not the case. I like to talk, and if you read my blog, you know I always have something to say. Introverts like myself are just not assertive in a group, and the more people who are around us, the less we tend to talk. We like to listen and observe. We are very comfortable being wallflowers. As Charlie describes it, it is sitting “alone at a party and still feeling a part of things.” (p. 172)

The aspect of this book that I found to be most brilliant is the way the author forces the reader into the role of wallflower, thereby letting the reader experience first hand how it feels to be an introvert. Charlie presents the unknown friend (the reader) with his experiences, thoughts, and ideas. The reader then takes on the role of introvert, not actively participating, but quietly observing what transpires, being the person to whom others talk. The reader begins to understand how it feels to be Charlie. It really works well and written any other way, the book would have fallen short, in my opinion.

I also really loved the relationship between Charlie and his English teacher, Bill. Bill recognizes that Charlie is gifted and seeks to challenge him by giving him certain books to read. Now, as a book nerd, what others read and their thoughts on books is a source of infinite fascination for me, so following Charlie’s reading list and his impressions of the books was very interesting. Also, the fact that I have read all but a few of the books that he was assigned made it that much more engaging for me. Sorry–you will have to guess which books I have not read (yet).

I recommend this book for everyone. Parents should read it to be reminded of what it’s like to be a teenager and the issues that young people have to deal with. Teenagers should read it so they can learn that it is OK to be different, and most importantly, that it is important to have someone with whom you can be open and talk about the deep, dark secrets, because keeping them bottled up inside will only cause additional problems.

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