It is the final Sunday of 2019, not just the final Sunday weekly poem of the year, but also the final poem of a decade that marked my most solid commitment to improving the art and craft of poetry writing. I woke up early because I am especially excited to be going to see the new cinematic version of Little Women today, with some of my favourite women friends. And also, it feels appropriate to close off the year with a homage to two of the most formative women writers. Because I encountered them in childhood, I learned that writing was a fit occupation for women. I also grew up in a household with an elder sister who was a writer, so even though there was a dearth of women poets in anthologies or studied at school, I had these 19th century role models.
I first read Little Women in an abridged form when I was around eight or nine as I recovered from one of those childhood illnesses that kept you in quarantine for a fortnight. I became a rabid Alcott fan and over the years acquired Little Men, Jo’s Boys, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom. I found An Old Fashioned Girl at a library book sale. A Garland for Girls and Cornelia Meig’s Alcott biography, Invincible Louisa appeared under the Christmas tree. By the time I was twelve I could have had an MA in Alcott. I had all but her Gothic early fiction, which was still out of print in the 1970s. In my early teens I was a devout transcendentalist and had moved on to Thoreau and Hawthorn’s Blithedale Romance. One summer vacation my brother, mother and I had a little pilgrimage to Orchard House where I bought the pamphlet Transcendental Wild Oats. I drew a little water from Walden Pond as I would from a holy well. Alcott made me.
Emily Dickinson was my literary sister from another mother. I discovered a biography of her in the public library when I was about eleven years old and began to read her poetry and write cryptic ones in her style as a tween. Very fitting that my brother in Brooklyn should include some Emily Dickinson Divination cards in my Christmas box this year (many thanks, Steve!) . I have been drawing one daily, along with a Susan Seddon-Boulet Animal Spirit card for clarification.
I will be doing this daily during this Christmas season that is ‘time out of time.’ From St. Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day) on 26th until Women’s Little Christmas (or Epiphany) on 6th January, it was custom to scan nature for omens of the year to come. But these literary divination cards were just begging to be used for the Omen Days. There are twelve months in the calendar year and twelve days of Christmas. Hence, looking for signs and portents of the year to come during these days that were considered, and still are, a gateway time of endings and beginnings. There is more about them in this post from last year. https://sojourningsmith.blog/2018/12/26/the-omen-days/
But now to the final Sunday Weekly poem of 2019. I played around with a five line format a lot in July this year that takes a quotation as its first line. To find out more about the form, check out this post https://sojourningsmith.blog/2019/07/06/all-poets-can-do/.
In this case I have used Dickinson’s own words for the first and final lines.
This Being Mortal
Mortality is fatal.
Grief becomes our work in progress,
constantly hunting for what’s been lost –
The love that so eludes us,
The Soul there – all the time.
Top and tail lines by Emily Dickinson
Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved
I will do a quick New Year post mid-week. Then it will be back to the Sunday Weekly poem schedule.