Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A fly's buzz: closer to the heart of poetry

Cornelius Eady was the guest teacher at Acentos last Sunday. Acentos Writers Workshops, of the Acentos nonprofit, are held at Hostos Community College in the Bronx on Sunday afternoons. Created to welcome Hispanic poets, the workshop are open, by which I mean, even a white girl like me can go.

I'm not a workshop person, or at least haven't been one. I'm a Cornelius Eady person, however, and not just because Facebook kept directing me to his page when I logged on. (See link below. ) (This stopped a few weeks ago.) Eady's a poet I like to read, plus he does a lot for poetry.

In the workshop we wrote a "Bop" poem (a complaint in three stanzas with the refrain lifted off a song; my refrain was Absolutely nuthin.) and two poems which held ye olde magnifying glass to specific moments, one of our choosing, one our first kiss. That's workshoppy stuff, which doesn't make the exercises invalid. In addressing the specific, persona, fiddling around with time, Eady referred to a Dickinson poem and asked the group if we knew it.

"I heard a fly buzz when I died." You've heard that, right?

The room became a weary nod, as if people had been asked if they'd heard of the Depression, or World War II. I gather the poem is read and analyzed in every English class; as a matter of fact I hit it up when I taught Comp 101. Dickinson's poem doesn't need anyone's enthusiasm anyway. This is poem is quite satisfied being itself, thank you very much. As it should be.

The deal with "buzz" is, we're asked to believe the writer has posthumous access to paper and pen. Or asked to consider how we die in little ways or how to memorialize intense moments. I'm posting this poem here because I think it will do me some good. Every poem or poet I embrace with my 3,000 Loving Arms brings me 0.000000000000000000001 millisomethings closer to the heart of poetry.

Ever zeroing in, I offer Emily.

I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.
The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.
I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable, — and then
There interposed a fly,
With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.
. . . Emily Dickinson
Previous posting mentioning Cornelius Eady and a temporary identity problem I was having on Facebook:


  1. I think I heard him reading/talking on NPR. At any rate, his voice, literally and writtenly, got me to read some of his work..
    I really like the plain quality, the directness and the simple clarity.
    thanks again..

  2. yeah. full of energy - and craft. (which isn't my favorite word, but it will do.)