I Am Not Emily Dickinson
After I had invested thousands of hours and hundreds of dollars in this blog, I went into a walk-about. I had hired an expert to design the blog, and she raised the ante by turning it into a work of illustrated prose. She was certain that I could proceed on my own, adding new illustrated posts to the blog as I went along.
I gave it a good try. I imported several new posts into the blog dashboard and diligently worked on them. But it was too complicated. Dozens of digital nuances danced on the tip of my nose, an intrusive mini hailstorm. I uploaded my personal contact list and pored over it, paring it down into a “gratitude” mailing list. And then I was stymied. Although I continued writing new posts at a reasonable pace, but they had no place to go. A few weeks passed. I realized I had no idea where the in-process blogs were stored, let alone the new contact list.
My principal reader, having once said she did not want to take on this task because she already spent so much time at her computer, took pity on me. Did I want her to process the blog? Well, yes, it would save my life. But no: If I were a true friend, I could not—I would not—ask her to take up this burden. So she recommended a friend she thought would do it well. Turned out to be an excellent referral.
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away, Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – This Traverse may the poorest take Without oppress of Toll – How frugal is the Chariot That bears a Human soul.
But still, my memory had taken a huge hit. Was I now too impaired to continue with these tasks? Finally I did find the lost posts. They were not “in my computer,” but in the dashboard of the blog, which had the tools needed for this process. And the contacts? One day I was leafing through my notebooks in search of a password, and I spotted a Gmail address, created just for this occasion. I was—or perhaps I could be—spared.
And still I struggled. I began thinking of Emily Dickinson, and of her great collection of unpublished poems, tied up with ribbon in little scrolls and saved in a large chest. Not that I wanted to be Emily. I just did not want to be held accountable for what I have written. A reticent inner voice argued that my posts could seek an impact through being emailed to my posthumous world. There I could receive any reaction with aplomb, free of apology. If they were riotously well-received, let a latter-day Hal Holbrook—please endow him with a noticeable physical disability—make a good living on tours impersonating me and reading from my work. * I will not even haunt him if he teases out a more pronounceable nom de plume. †
Ah, my fantasies run amuck. I cannot emulate Emily Dickinson in any significant way. Reasons abound. Our times have been so different. Hers required a gatekeeper to put her work before readers—and none came forward while she lived. Mine provide the means to start a blog and broadcast my work to the world—though no promise of an actual audience. I live in an era awash in lists hailing the best, by the 10s, the 40s and 100s. The forty best meditation blogs of 2020. ‡ The ten best-loved women poets. § Did top-40 lists start with popular music? Ah, then perhaps all the progeny of this idea has been corrupted by its very shallowness.
And here I hang, suspended, like a balloonist who cannot bring her craft to a landing. A sharp-nosed critic with hands on hips demands, Come on, Karl, what are you trying to say? That Emily Dickinson was a meditator? A fellow blogger has built her work around this idea: https://emilyeveryday.com/ . Yes, I am trying to claim Emily as a meditator. Her work seems a series of meditative explorations. I can honor her with gratitude and praise, but I cannot be her. And my time permits me to imagine a continuing dialogue with unseen readers. I promise to visit Miss Dickinson again.
*Imagining that a shell-shocked world will once again be free to assemble, no longer under mandate to keep six feet of separation.
† Borrowing from my days in the realm of pen names, I suggest Karl S Monroe Tonight. No period after the S—just like Harry S Truman.
‡ If there were a Top 10 list of meditation blogs tended by septuagenarians, I might have a chance!
§ Our heroine ranked only fourth. It’s hard to imagine her looking it up—if she had the means—or even caring.