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Emily Dickinson

(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886 / Amherst / Massachusetts)

I cannot dance upon my Toes


326

I cannot dance upon my Toes—
No Man instructed me—
But oftentimes, among my mind,
A Glee possesseth me,

That had I Ballet knowledge—
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe—
Or lay a Prima, mad,

And though I had no Gown of Gauze—
No Ringlet, to my Hair,
Nor hopped to Audiences—like Birds,
One Claw upon the Air,

Nor tossed my shape in Eider Balls,
Nor rolled on wheels of snow
Till I was out of sight, in sound,
The House encore me so—

Nor any know I know the Art
I mention—easy—Here—
Nor any Placard boast me—
It's full as Opera—

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Rookie Marilyn Matis (11/1/2009 1:51:00 AM)

    This is the first Emily Dickinson poem I fell in love with. Instead of the 'recluse poet' image we are all taught about, this is Dickinson as diva!

    She uses a simple literary device to create irony: 'I can't dance, but if I could...'
    So if she could she would be hopping around on the stage like a delicate bird. She would be SO GOOD that other ballerinas-in fact, prima ballerinas-would be envious of her abilities.

    With a wink, Dickinson tells us that not only would she be a spectacular dancer if someone only taught her, she says that no one knows that she DOES have the ability. Even though there are no signs to advertise it, she can dance very, very well.

    The joke here is Dickinson did not retreat totally from the world. She used to send her poems out for publication. But they were so unusual that all the editors and other poets said 'you're getting there, but you don't have it yet.' The ultimate irony is that no one reads those poets or editors anymore, but many read Dickinson over 100 years after her death.

    It could 'Lay a Prima-Mad' no? (Report) Reply

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