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There's a certain slant of light

Daily Poetry Break Commentary by Bob Blair for December 10, 1998

December 10 was Emily Dickinson's birthday in 1830. I don't like very many of her poems -- a recent attempt to become more familiar with her work quickly ended in boredom and frustration -- but I know that her simplicity and apparent sincerity are appealing to many.

Dickinson is best when she is surprising, as in today's poem There's a certain Slant of light.... You've probably heard that she spent most of her life in her room on the second story of her father's house in Amherst, Massachusettes. It is easy to picture her fancy turning, on one of countless winter afternoons, to the similarity of slanting sunlight to beams of light through high church windows. But to transfer that image to the parallel weight of organ music wafting through a cathedral is, I think, very fine.

It is interesting that Emily, a dabbling Congrationalist, may well have been unfamiliar, or only vaguely familiar, with cathedral churches.

--Bob Blair

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