Emily Dickinson

A Celebration of the Life
& Work of Emily Dickinson

Soul at the White Heat
Reading of poems & letters

Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University
Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 7:00-9:30 pm

By Peter Y. Chou

Preface: On January 28, I received an email from my friend Peter Robinson, a classmate in Dick Maxwell's Poetry Workshops at Foothill College in the early 1990s. He told me about the Emily Dicksinson Event at Stanford University on Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 7 pm at Dinkelspiel Auditorium. He also included his verse on poetry: "Poetry is but a bird of words / when released from my hands / fly to nest in our hearts." His images of bird & words, hands & hearts, flying & nesting, to depict poetry triggered my imagination that I sent him a response haiku: "This bird in my heart / released to fly into a / wind of words— poetry." After Green Library closed at midnight, I got home around 1:15 am. I recalled a CPITS Poetry Workshop with children (2nd-5th graders) at the Burlingame Public Library (Jan. 13-March 9, 1996). I designed a cover Words with Wings— a banner painted by a dove whose body is filled with "words" typeset in its shape. In the Preface, I cited "my words fly up" from Shakespeare's Hamlet, III.3 and "words do from such passion fly" in Twelfth Night, III.4. But I lauded the children whose fresh words made our mind fly. Thanks to Peter Robinson's email about the Emily Dickinson Event and his fresh insight on poetry, I was inspired to write six haikus for January 28. I also found some postage stamps to illustrate his poem and mine for this web page celebrating Emily Dickinson's poetry.

United States #1436
Emily Dickinson
8¢ multicolor, greenish
issued Aug. 28, 1971

Emily Dickinson's Definition of Poetry

One of the most powerful definitions of poetry and my favorite may be found in Emily Dickinson's August 16, 1870 remark to Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) on his first visit to her in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was published in The Atlantic (October 1891), twenty-one years after his interview with Emily and five years after her death. Higginson precedes her quote with "this crowning extravaganza":

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire
  can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically
  as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
  These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”

The Letters of Emily Dickinson (Edited by Thomas H. Johnson)
     Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1958
     (PS1541,Z5.A3.V2), Volume 2, pp. 472-474, Letter 342a


France #567
Holding Dove of Peace
10 franc, dark blue
issued July 29, 1946 for
1946 Paris Peace Conference

Poetry is but a bird of words
when released from my hands
fly to nest in our hearts.

— Peter Robinson
     Jan. 28, 2008 Email
     to Peter Y. Chou

France #566
Dove Reaching for Peace
3 franc, Prussian green
issued July 29, 1946 for
1946 Paris Peace Conference


Tunisia #289
Woman with Dove
12 franc, brown violet
issued 1956 to celebrate
Tunisian autonomy

This bird in my heart
released to fly into a
wind of words— poetry.

— Peter Y. Chou
     Jan. 28, 2008 Email
     to Peter Robinson

China #C69
$8, blue, gray, & black
Taiwan airmail stamp
issued March 20, 1957


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© Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (1-29-2008)