I DWELL IN POSSIBILITY – (466)I dwell in Possibility – A fairer House than Prose – More numerous of Windows – Superior – for Doors – Of Chambers as the Cedars – Impregnable of eye – And for an everlasting Roof The Gambrels of the Sky – Of Visitors – the fairest – For Occupation – This – The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise –
— Emily Dickinson
The writer wants to send strong a message. She has chosen to set herself apart in a dwelling, in a kingdom which offers better possibilities, better means of expression and a loftier appearance than Prose. This kingdom is Poetry, a wonderful art of language that reconciles dreams with realities. And this art has “more windows”. By more windows, understand a greater number of views on the landscape, on the horizon, on the future, but also on the past and present, and therefore on every aspects of life itself. In this abode, “doors are superiors”! Therefore, opportunities never lack and never end at Dickinson’s; self-expression can take any form and reach all men on earth through the “Doors” of hearts.
Let us make this comparison clear! “Cedars” are tall trees. Cedars are strong trees. Cedars are majestic trees. Cedars are royal trees. Cedars are often compared in the bible with powerful kings by the means of personification. Since “Chambers” make reference to a bedroom, in this poem, Emily Dickinson is inferring that the sleeping rooms of her reverie palace are beautiful and stunning far beyond all human imagination and therefore are made for hosts of a kingly bloodline – the nobles, the elects, the poets… She also implies that those rooms are designed for the elevation of minds and souls since they are as high as cedars can be. Visiting Dickinson, reading her writings, a good way to get high, isn’t it?
What is “impregnable of eye” is too much for the eye to grasp. It is beyond minds. It is also unconquerable. It is secure. It is flawless. She wants her poems to be resting places, to be sweet, dazzling, and reassuring. When she adds an “everlasting Roof” made up of the “Gambrels of the Sky”, she brings down reveries and heavenly beauties from the unconscious realms back to her home life, to her artistry. This poem is therefore a description Emily Dickinson gives of her own Poetry…
This strophe starts not with mere discrimination but a precision. She is not claiming beyond all reasonable doubts that all of her friends and hosts should be the best at something. She is saying that her peer group is made up of fairy tales creatures, of people who have exercised their ability to dream to such an extent that they too live in a dream and are therefore able to locate a house that can only exist in the most profound realms of imagination. She is not shouting: “I will not let you in if you don’t exhibit such and such qualities.” Instead, Emily Dickinson is whispering: “Only a great dreamer can find my mansion because it is not made of manly stuff. It is close to the heavens and you will need to elevate your spirit to have access to it.”
What is the occupation? “– This”, “This” is “Poetry”! This is a bold affirmation because the Bible says only in Heaven, only in Paradise will the children of God spend all their time worshipping and praising the Lord, that is to say the redeemed will live by, live from and live through Poetry. But wait, Emily Dickinson is saying that this is exactly what she is trying to do here. She wants to “gather Paradise” by “Spreading wide her narrow Hands”. She wants to build a bridge between Cloud nine and Earth. Her abode, her poetry, her realm therefore connects men to God as evidenced by the extensive use of dashes that look like pathways.
To end things, what say we?
This poem is a long and well elaborated metaphor by which Emily Dickinson proclaims the superiority, the pre-eminence, the beauty, the majesty, the fairy advantage of poetry over prose, showing that choosing poetry as an abode, as a dwelling place, as a resting place, as a Modus Vivendi, as a passion, as a roof and shelter enables her to move past life realities, life limitations, life impossibilities… She therefore lives in a dream and fantasy place where she can invite all her readers through poems of an exquisite taste. This is where heaven becomes a haven to visit!
More notes on the use of capitalisation
Capitalisation is generally used for people’s names: Jesus, Obama, Snyder… So what? The architecture of her house has become alive? Maybe, yes. But truly, yes! Things in this house have their own existence, their own meaning, their own purpose, their own raison d’être and their own history. And this makes them alive. The “House” is alive. The “Windows” are alive. The “Doors” are alive. The “Chambers” are alive. The “Cedars” are alive. The “Sky” is alive. The “Visitors” are alive. Her “Hands” are alive. The “Occupation” is alive. Nothing in her domicile is dead matter. The bottom-line is: Her Poetry has a soul of its own for it is living substance. Emily Dickinson thus wants to use Capitalisation as a means of personification,—figure of speech.
On the use of dashes
If she dwells in Poetry and prefers it rather than Prose, she has to mean it. Thus the presence of Dashes is a way of breaking the cycle of Prose. She does not want her sayings to look like Prose. Nope! So? She uses uncongenial and unexpected punctuations to make the break-up with conventional writings somehow more evident… This is Poetry after all so she can do whatever she wants to! Sounds like freedom, right? Well, this liberty of expression is the proof of “Possibility”. She also wishes to force her readers to imagine what the dashes can be in normal punctuation. For me, they could be everything: Dots, colons, dashes, question marks, semicolons depending on the circumstances. Therefore, the reader can become active. He thereby receives an invitation to join her in her realm, and can only pass through the doors of her house of poetry by accepting to figure out what all the symbols mean. Birds of the same feather stick together. If you want to get into Dickinson’s intimacy, you will have to make leap of faith as she just did it. You will have to come away with her in the house of Poetry. But more, make this house your home too! Follow her lead! Dashes are linear and long and look like straight pathways…
— Gilles F. Dogbo