Is Poem 657 – “I dwell in Possibility” a matter of ‘more than meets the eye?’ This poem by Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) may seem as if it’s about death or the after life. But take a closer look!
About Poem 657
As you may know, none of the poems written by Emily Dickinson had titles. This is we often see in poetry. The words of the poem itself are considered more important and some poets have decided that the reader can make up the title. If there is any need. The words should be enough, right?
“I dwell in Possibility”
It’s an interesting poem this one. It starts with the first sentence: “I dwell in Possibility –” The word ‘possibility’ suggests that it’s possible. Does she live in a possible situation? How about that word ‘dwell?’ If you dwell, you remain for a time. You live as a resident, according to Merriam Webster. If this is about her house, how come it feels rather distant? As if she doesn’t belong there.
That is all based on just one sentence…
It’s not any house. No, this is a house so fine or perhaps even so light (bright). It’s even more than the language of the ordinary people or the words they use (‘prose’).
Still, it may well be the house she grew up in. An impressive amount of windows and doors. With cedarwood chambers and a roof that is so big. Isn’t any house humongous for a child?
This house seems to attract only the fairest visitors. Just to gather paradise…
Did she die?
The other option is to stick to Emily Dickinson as a poet/writer. This poem is about her being a poet. The house is the metaphor for her poetry. According to her, it’s not only open but also without limits. It’s even more beautiful the way she writes it, compared to other forms of poetry.
Well, well, no holding back here, Emily!
She goes on and links poetry to nature. There is only one roof for her poetry: the sky. Who reads poetry, will be taken to even more beautiful places. On the other side, it will prevent them from misjudgement.
When it comes to the last sentences: Dickinson realises that through her writing she does something she can’t in normal life: talk about her deepest feelings.
She didn’t die, she explains her love for poetry and confesses she’s not able to say certain things…
Suddenly the bragging about her poetry is forgiven…
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
— Emily Dickinson