Dickinson's Birds

A Listening Machine

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Reading Coordinates + Navigation Notes

Dickinson in the Meshwork: Encoding Environment
This project encourages attunement to the ways in which Dickinson’s poetry evokes the world(s) around her and her complex, sometimes uncanny experience of emplacement. Thus our mark up of the poems reflects their relationship to scale, place, motion, time, and sound. We begin by inventorying the poems’ scalar allusions to Universes, Galaxies, Solar Systems, Worlds, and Planets. We then recalibrate to report the poems’ landforms: valleys, mountains, deserts, seas, glacial ice. In another act of refocusing, we catalogue their terrestrial and marine habitats, along with the flora and fauna sheltering in them. We consider their climates, marking the meteorological and atmospheric processes recorded in them. And then, in an effort to set back into motion those “elements” of Dickinson’s world trapped in our static inventories, we imagine them in their temporal zones. Our sense that Dickinson lived in the very nick of time, our vision of the lyric itself as a fleeting instance and measure of time, and our experience of reading Dickinson in and out of time is reflected in our effort to mark the many temporalities  — years, seasons, months and days, transits and occultations — found in her work. At last, the central importance of sound in the poems is manifest in our attention to three interlacing registers in Dickinson’s work: the geophony, the biophony, and the anthrophony. 
Explorations of agency and alterity are at the very core of all of Dickinson’s work and thus at the core of these selected works from her larger corpus. Everywhere in her lyric oeuvre, we find encounters between “strange strangers”, the human and non-human, the organic and inorganic, sometimes colliding with one another, sometimes turning toward or becoming one another, sometimes just passing by but not touching. Although we do not attempt to mark the infinite traces of “strange strangers” in these works for fear of domesticating their movements and revolutions in form, we hope that the coordinates of our encoding will lead each reader more deeply into the complex meshwork of Dickinson’s world and an encounter with the questions — about poetry, about ecology — that swirl within it.
  • Universe/Universes
  • Galaxies
  • World/Worlds
  • Solar Systems & Bodies 
  • Landforms 
  • Habitat: Terrestrial
  • Habitat: Freshwater
  • Habitat: Marine
  • Flora
  • Fauna
  • Meteorological and Atmospheric Phenomena 
  • Time-marks: Solar
  • Time-marks: Earthly
  • Sound-marks: Geophony
  • Soundmarks: Biophony
  • Soundmarks: Anthrophony

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