Three poets and a desk.

It’s National Poetry Month and now that I take notice, we are nearly at the end of it. That prompts me to finally take this bit out of my files to give you in celebration.

I read a post from Malcolm Guite two years ago in which he tells about his visit to the Emily Dickinson home/museum, and seeing her little desk; his musings provoked me to think, too. He wonders if the physical narrowness of her space somehow helped her to turn “restraint to grace,” in this poem which, as always, you can hear him read if you like: Emily Dickinson’s Desk

That’s two poets to honor this month, and here is a poetry from a third, that may have nothing really to do with Malcolm and Emily — but I think it does. If not in any other way, then because Jane (photo above) is in a “room” with the other poets…. where, I suppose, they are all scratching out, or typing their lines… or only composing mentally and invisibly for the moment…. each wishing she could just be alone in a quiet room with a tiny writing table… I better stop or I’ll have to write a poem about my three poets.


An hour is not a house,
a life is not a house,
you do not go through them as if
they were doors to another.

Yet an hour can have shape and proportion,
four walls, a ceiling.
An hour can be dropped like a glass.

Some want quiet as others want bread.
Some want sleep.

My eyes went
to the window, as a cat or dog left alone does.

-Jane Hirshfield

6 thoughts on “Three poets and a desk.

  1. I had no idea it was Poetry month when I posted a poem for Earth Day. I must go listen to this fellow reading about Emily Dickinson’s Desk!


  2. Ah – I like that poem, as my eyes often go to the window, like a cat. What a small desk! Malcolm Guite’s poem seems in the style of Emily Dickinson, don’t you think? Or what little I know of it. And if he’s right about the restraint of space turning to grace, the same must certainly be true of Jane Austen. 🙂


    1. A literature teacher friend wrote about Guite’s poem just what you noticed, Lisa:

      ‘If you know Emily’s poetry, you know he is modeling it here, and — perfectly; “slant-wise” is an allusion to what is probably my personal favorite literary quote from Dickinson herself: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant –” Guite must like it, too. There’s also her “There’s a certain slant of light” line….’


      1. I wouldn’t want to appear to know more than I do – it just *seemed* to me that the style was like hers. I am ignorant of anything else! 😀


  3. “and slant-wise told her truth”. I like that line. I’m not a big poetry buff, but I studied Emily Dickinson for a literature class in college (back in my ’50’s) and I found her a fascinating character. I think that quote very well describes her writing style. And I actually did find a lot of poetry I liked in that class. I guess I just don’t seek it out enough. 🙂


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