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DEAR March Come In

Dear March – Come in –

How glad I am –

I hoped for you before –

Put down your Hat –

You must have walked –

How out of Breath you are –

Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –

Did you leave Nature well –

Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –

I have so much to tell –

I got your Letter, and the Birds –

The Maples never knew that you were coming –

I declare – how Red their Faces grew –

But March, forgive me –

And all those Hills you left for me to Hue –

There was no Purple suitable –

You took it all with you –

Who knocks? That April –

Lock the Door –

I will not be pursued –

He stayed away a Year to call

When I am occupied –

But trifles look so trivial

As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise

And Praise as mere as Blame –

Commentary by Rebecca Foust, Poetry Editor []

This version of Emily Dickinson’s wonderful poem arranges it into 26 lines in four stanzas of 10, 7, 6, and 2 lines, but I saw at least one other that gathered it into four stanzas of 11, 9, 7, and 2, for a total of 29 lines.

Without a lot more research, I could not tell you how this poem originally appeared in Dickinson’s ribbon-tied “fascicles” before her editors got their hands on it, but the version presented to you today is from The Poetry Foundation and is the one that made the most sense to me. As in many Dickinson poems, meter and end rhyme are mercurial in “Dear March – Come in,” certainly present, but without the rigidity and predictability of most formal poetry of her time. If I had to assign a meter, I’d call it iambic trimeter that includes some four-beat (tetrameter) and two-beat (dimeter) lines. That use of more than one meter reminds me that much of Dickinson’s verse is written in common meter, a variation on hymn meter that alternates lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. Famous for bending the rules, Dickinson reinvents common meter by favoring slant over full end rhyme, varying the numbers of syllables and beats in lines, and interposing dashes that sometimes interrupt the meter, and then re-invents it again here.

My commentary in this blog post:

"There are so many things in this life for me to love and certainly far more than to which I can devote even the slightest attention. I can only hope and pray that they are well loved and attended to by other individuals or parties as the case may be as I know that I don't have the capacity to give them the love they do deserve.

Works of art are integral to this assertion on my part.

I have said before that when you love something and take it on it becomes part of your nervous system.

Even though as I said above I cannot do this with everything.

I have done this with many things.

To name but two examples, Herbie Hancock and Charlie Parker solos in music, and these are not always under my fingers. (There are simply too many recorded solos to learn them all of course, but I can select a few to become intimate with).

Yet, even when not perfectly under my fingers I can anticipate the pitches and rhythms and have working memory of how the entirety of the solo goes etc.

Similarly I have memorized certain Yashijiro Ozu films, in exactly the same way that I spoke to Melanie Mayron on this podcast of having HARRY AND TONTO and GIRLFIRENDS "memorized" - in the latter case of these two movies, memorizing every frame visually and dialogue spoken, even if compromised by an English translation! I am in a sense no expert even on Ozu precisely because I do not know Japanese, but, be that as it may, I do know that should I ever be so fortunate to visit Japan the very first place I shall visit is Ozu's grave in Engakuji Temple Kita-Kamamura, Kanagawa.

And I know that my work on Ozu has made me literally a better person than I otherwise would have been had I not been familiar at all with his films! (For example, insight into the human heart, how families have worked historically, psychology and motivation, and beauty in general).

Like Ozu, Emily Dickenson was extremely precise about every detail of her artwork.

In Ozu's case it was the placement of people in the frame, in particular their proximity to the floor. To name but one yet important example, he is one of the few filmmakers to have dialogue scenes done in a POV shot isolating each party in a conversation and putting us in the receiving position - as if the character speaking were treating we in the audience as the other character in the scene.

This has an entirely different effect than either a two shot or an over the shoulder conversation shot, both of which are and have been predominant in cinema around the world.

And I have to say that this aspect of Ozu's films have been immensely helpful to me in understanding the human face in particular.

In Dickinson's case it was her exactitude about punctuation and capitalization of nouns both of which had spiritual meanings for her as a poet and were not cosmetic but rich in significance. She famously complained that the meaning of a poem of hers had been changed when published in a publication called the Springfield Republican.

The concern was over the addition of one comma and the removal of one of her beloved dashes and the addition of a period.

Original wording:

A narrow Fellow in the Grass

Occasionally rides –

You may have met Him – did you not

His notice sudden is –

Republican version :

A narrow Fellow in the Grass

Occasionally rides –

You may have met Him – did you not,

His notice sudden is.

Now what I really want to say is that I do love Emily Dickinson but I am not an expert on her the way I might say I am on some other things.

She hasn't entered totally into my nervous system.

She has made a dent in it though.

What I do know however, is that if one day I decided to induct her into my nervous system, it would undoubtedly be worth my while, and I would be a better person for it.

Note that this does not make it indispensable that I do so; other things can perform that same "function". Rather what I mean is that I have to have a modicum of confidence on what matters in life and if I chose to do this with Dickinson I would have this other equally valuable life, parallel yet distinct from the one I currently have.

You could think of this as an alternative Mitch who chose to live a different life where Emily Dickinson played a large role.

Maybe one day I will meet that Mitch; maybe not.

It has recently come to my attention that Emily Dickinson is one of those famous figures that has been posthumously diagnosed as autistic like Vlaidmir Nabokov and Albert Einstein.

History’s 30 Most Inspiring People on the Autism Spectrum

Though autism did not become the mainstream diagnosis it is today until well into the 20th century, it is certainly not anything new. Indeed, history is full of people who many consider to be or have been somewhere on the autism spectrum. Like the 30 people on this list. Famous Autistic People in History

  • Dan Aykroyd – Comedic Actor

  • Hans Christian Andersen – Children’s Author

  • Benjamin Banneker – African American almanac author, surveyor, naturalist, and farmer

  • Susan Boyle – Singer

  • Tim Burton – Movie Director

  • Lewis Carroll – Author of “Alice in Wonderland”

  • Henry Cavendish – Scientist

  • Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist

  • Emily Dickinson – Poet

  • Paul Dirac – Physicist

  • Albert Einstein – Scientist & Mathematician

  • Bobby Fischer – Chess Grandmaster

  • Bill Gates – Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation

  • Temple Grandin – Animal Scientist

  • Daryl Hannah – Actress & Environmental Activist

  • Thomas Jefferson – Early American Politician

  • Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple

  • James Joyce – Author of “Ulysses”

  • Alfred Kinsey – Sexologist & Biologist

  • Stanley Kubrick – Film Director

  • Barbara McClintock – Scientist and Cytogeneticist

  • Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Classical Composer

  • Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, & Physicist

  • Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian

  • Satoshi Tajiri – Creator of Nintendo’s Pokémon

  • Nikola Tesla – Inventor

  • Andy Warhol – Artist

  • Ludwig Wittgenstein – Philosopher

  • William Butler Yeats – Poet

  • For more information on this, visit :

Now this is really interesting for a couple of reasons.

There is a lot of nonsense written about our condition.

They are attempts to capture something about us. (The nonsense is not totally false and the assertions often have a grain of truth but reflect the point of view of the non-autistic.) They are made in good faith, in other words, even though they often cause harm. One of these claims about us is that we are literal minded, do not understand metaphor and allegory; another is that we are totally uninterested in relationships.

Now Dickinson was a poet.

If there is anything in the world less literal minded it is the art form of poetry.

If you talk to March like she is a long lost best girl friend already we have to throw out this notion of being literal. She did have an unconventional relationship with the world. All artists do; certainly we autistics do, though the two are distinct identities. In later years she preferred to be more isolated and away from her community in a physical sense.

Contemporary pundits want to say that she had agoraphobia. When monks live in isolation we certainly don't assume they are agoraphobic, because we conceptualize that they have their own good reasons for wanting to live in that way, making any diagnosis moot. And as far as relationships go we do know that Emily Dickinson loved deeply both a man and a woman at different times during her lifetime - another matter that we try to put into a box - and was deeply passionate about the issues of her day and her community in New England.

I think the best way to understand Emily Dickinson is as a straight up artist/mystic, not that different from a Tolstoy or Andrei Tarkovsky.

I only want to note that the poem "Dear March - Come in" is all about relationship, its tone and emotions are in fact most complex: you get the sense of a real, intimate conversation in it. You could argue that her obsession with the technicalities of words on a page was extreme or akin to the autistic's overvaluation of unimportant detail. (And I would say that this is not an obsession but part of her craft as a poet)

But if you did argue that you would be, without being aware of this, saying essentially that poetry is meant to be a spoken or oral art alone, with the written part of poetry being less important. That would be a falsehood, yet I wonder how many people buy into this, among other assumptions. No less of a thinker than Jaques Derrida, who I continue to defend against his many detractors, many of whom have not bothered to read him in the first place, argued for a kind of priority of writing over speech, in a contrarian move on his part.

By this he does not mean the clearly untrue claim that writing came first but that the privileging of speech over writing has always been part of the oppression in society, in particular to purposefully keep large amounts of people illiterate so that they are denied another means of expression as well as to make speech less effective in being submerged in a mass of speakers and speech such that it is less effective.

There is a lot of speculation about Dickinson these days, more speculation than established evidence unfortunately.

We do know that she had regular mystical experiences.

To name but one example, after initially developing a relationship with Jesus, she then decided that she wanted no part of church attendance, believing that this relationship was best served by being alone in her room.

She was also plagued or haunted by much death and illness among her friends and family. One of the things she did with that fact is to make poetry out of it and I believe that in doing this she gained strength and understanding of this subject.

See for example two poems "I heard a Fly buzz-when I died" and "I could not stop for Death" and so on. Note the capitalizations!) She clearly had very comprehensive spiritual views that she expressed in her poems and these could not then and cannot now be reduced to any particular religious tradition or creed; they were totally her own which is to say that they were truly spiritual.

Some people, especially in the sciences, feel that the ideas in her poetry were so radical and advanced that they anticipate current discoveries in neuroscience in fact! The Nobel Prize winner Gerald Edelman wrote a book called Wider Than The Sky, The Phenomenal Gift Of Consciousness, the title a reference to her poem beginning with "The Brain-Is Wider Than The Sky".

(I note the deep irony in the fact that though some contemporary neuroscientists want to "claim her", since the overwhelming majority of said scientists are what would be called materialists or physicalists her very real mysticism would be a barrier for many of them and I don't think she might return the enthusiasm in so straightforward a way. But that is to play with anachronism and I like to hold my presentism in check.

She says that it is not only wider than the sky, but deeper than the ocean, and just the weight of God)

Of course all of this both matters and doesn't matter.

I mean it is immensely interesting and if we care about her as living person, that is, her biography, then it does matter. Her poetry is what ultimately matters for us today and her poetry is wider than her life.

Just as watching Ozu's Tokyo Story or Late Spring is something we can do at any time if we so choose today.

One of the things said about Ozu's films is they are at once so totally Japanese, that is, specific to that culture and yet even more universal and beloved around the world than many other Japanese films - in part of because of their devotion to the quotidian.

So it is with any art.

It is at once idiosyncratic, and has the real points of view of specific people in it, rather than some huge mob of anonymous and undifferentiated of people, and at the same time capable of communicating with the widest possible audience.

I am happy if our podcast realizes that double vision, of the individual and the universal, as we travel this journey.


Links for further exploration on Ozu and his beautiful works:

Chisu Ryu and Setsuko Hara (aka the Greta Garbo of Japan)

Paul Schrader on Ozu:

Vogue on Ozu:

Sara Parker Blog Post on Ozu:

Times on Ozu:

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