Dickinson is exploring a psychological experience, which could
either (1) a lapse into irrationality, a psychological breakdown or (2)
the forgetting of a thought or word (an experience we have all have had
and one which, I regret to tell you, gets more common as we age). You
can decide whether she is describing an abnormal psychological state or
whether she is describing a common mental occurrence. Don't let the
your reading; an editor who prepared the poems for publication chose
title, not Dickinson.
"Cleaving" is an interesting word choice. It means to split,
fall apart, often with a suggestion of effort or even violence; it also
has the opposite meaning of to stick to or to cling to. "Split" makes
clear the speaker is using the first meaning of separate, yet her
is for the second meaning, for the separated thoughts to fit together.
To express this desire, she uses the metaphor of a seamstress, who
match two pieces of cut fabric ("seam by seam"). The speaker, like the
seamstress with the edges of the cloth, is unable to make a connection
between one thought and the
thought immediately following it. She uses another sewing metaphor for
her inability to connect her thoughts; they are like separate balls of
yarn (they--and her thoughts--are not "knit" together).
This poem again shows Dickinson's ability to capture a
psychological experience with concrete imagery and her drawing images
from the woman's domain, the household.
|Dickinson, Online overview
"For each ecstatic instant," p. 2
"I taste a liquor never brewed,"
"Safe in their alabaster chambers,"
"I heard a fly buzz when I died," p.
"It was not death, for I stood up,"
| "A bird came down the walk,"
"I like to see it lap the miles,"
"Pain has an element of blank," p.
"A narrow fellow in the grass," p.
"I'm nobody! Who are you?" p. 9
| "After great pain a formal
feeling comes" (handout)
"The soul selects her own society"
"The heart asks pleasure first,"
"I'll tell you how the sun rose,"
"Presentiment is that long shadow on
the lawn," p. 36
| "Success is counted sweetest"
"I cannot live with you," p. 29
"He fumbles at your spirit," p.
"I felt a cleaving in my mind,"
"My life closed twice before its
close," p. 49
| "Wild nights! Wild nights!"
"She sweeps with many-colored brooms,"
"Hope is the thing with feathers,"
"I felt a funeral in my brain,"
"I had been hungry all the years,"
|"I started Early--took my Dog--"
"My life had stood a loaded gun"
"Because I could not stop for Death,"
"If you were coming in the fall,"
Sample Midtern and Student
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