There Came a Wind: An Artist’s Interpretation of Emily Dickinson’s Poem 1593

As usual during summer break, I’ve been taking some time to declutter our home. In one day, I cleared several crates of stuff and found a number of treasures. One such treasure was a beautiful piece of art one of my students completed many, many, many years ago for a literature class.

Response to Emily Dickinson, Poem 1593 by Z. Lott

Students typically have difficulty reading poetry. Gasp! I’m convinced they create a mental block when they hear the word “poetry.” To decrease the pressure and to help them realize their capacity for understanding and interpreting poetry, I have students craft a creative response to a poem.  Students can write another poem, compose a song, create an art piece, etc. in response to a poetic work (from a list of “approved” poems). Through the exercise, students typically learn they understand more than they think and develop confidence to complete the other poetry assignments.

My student chose Poem 1593 by Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite American poets.

There came a Wind like a Bugle –
It quivered through the Grass
And a Green Chill upon the Heat
So ominous did pass
We barred the Windows and the Doors
As from an Emerald Ghost –
The Doom’s electric Moccasin
The very instant passed –
On a strange Mob of panting Trees
And Fences fled away
And Rivers where the Houses ran
Those looked that lived – that Day –
The Bell within the steeple wild
The flying tidings told –
How much can come
And much can go,
And yet abide the World!

The picture does the visual work of the poem. Do you see it?

I like the message of Dickinson’s poem. Whether literal or figurative, storms come. Storms wreak havoc and destruction. Storms go. The world remains. Life is righted again…eventually.

Exactly (almost) three years ago, I “discovered” another student’s artistic rendering of a poem and blogged about it. You can see it here: “The Lamb, The Tyger, and the Lion.”

Enjoy!

Happy Spring: Education Outdoors

The weather today was (and is) too gorgeous for indoors.  By afternoon, I couldn’t resist, so a couple of my students and I decided to take education outdoors.

English majors discussing issues they’re examining for their final projects.

How did you celebrate the first day of spring (in the Northern Hemisphere)?

The Lamb, the Tyger, and the Lion

I was organizing files last week and ran across an interesting drawing done by a student in a Survey of English Literature course. The assignment was to artistically interpret two of William Blake’s poems (companion pieces from Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience).  Students could use any medium, and they were assured of full credit regardless of skill level. I was more interested in their effort and their enjoyment.   I imagine I was a little confused when I first saw the sketch below:

"The Tyger" by Charmaine W., EN 212 Spring 2013

“The Tyger” by Charmaine W., EN 212 Spring 2013

This piece is based on “The Lamb” from Songs of Innocence and “The Tyger” from Songs of Experience–poems that speak of two different aspects of the God of Creation and that lead readers to the realization that the God who crafted the innocent lamb is also the God who put the fire in the tiger’s eye, and that this same God embodies those meek and fierce attributes Himself.

But…um…that’s a lion, not a “tiger.”

Charmaine was cute, though.   She added a note to the back of the drawing labeled “artistic license.” Her explanation is that this still represents a visual interpretation of the “contrary” poems since Jesus is both lion and lamb–animals obviously perceived as having very different characteristics. And indeed, she is correct. Jesus is described as the Lion of Judah and the [Sacrificial] Lamb.

I ran into Charmaine a couple of days ago and let her know that I rediscovered her drawing.  We both laughed because it was after she drew the lion that she realized it should have been a tiger.  While she got the drawing “wrong,” she was accurate in visualizing what Blake would have questioned as contrary conceptualizations of God.  He is not one or the other, but both at the same time, and thus (perhaps) something other.

The assignment was inspired by Blake’s own illustrated works.  I wanted students to do more than read the poems and look at the pretty images.  I wanted them to deeply connect with Blake’s works. Sometimes that connection comes not through written critique or analysis but through creative work.  They have to understand the work(s) enough to render an honest visual interpretation.

Here are Blake’s own images of the two poems:

Enjoy and have a happy week!