Emmett Lee Dickinson, Emily Dickinson’s third cousin, twice removed (at her request), was born on October 12, 1803, in Washert (pronounced “WAS-herst”), Pennsylvania.
Known as “the Boor of Washerst,” Emmett Lee was the 13th of 13 children. His father, Emery Dickinson, was an ice delivery man in Washerst , and is thought to be the inspiration for a title of a Eugene O’Neill play. His mother, Emalee Incross, was a cosmetician at the Perish & Begone Funeral Parlor, owned by brothers Eberhard and Egan Perish and Caldwell Begone.
The Dickinson family lived in the basement of the funeral parlor, and this is possibly one reason why Emmett Lee developed an intense fear of the light (heliophobia), became a recluse, and dressed almost exclusively in shades of black. His reclusivity might also have been brought on by a sluggish liver and biliousness.
Emmett Lee Dickinson was a prolific writer of poetry, and penned such poems as, “After Formal Feedings, a great pain comes,” “Because I could not stop for Debt,” and “There’s a certain slant of Art.” Selected works of Dickinson can be found below.
Reports of Emmett Lee’s death are unconfirmed.
More information on Emmett Lee Dickinson can be found here: http://t.co/QcNJdWI
All Emmett Lee Dickinson poetry © 2011 by Jim Asher
The poetry of Emmett Lee Dickinson (Emily Dickinson's third cousin, twice removed -- at her request) is featured in books "Great American Poems -- REPOEMED" (Volumes 1 and 2).
The books also include parodies of E. E. Cummings' poetry ("Cummings Around Agains"), and "Frost in Translation," poetry of Robert Frost updated for the 21st century.
Some samples of poems by Emmett Lee Dickinson are below.
(The poems discussed appear below my commentary).
When the 1891 edition of Dickinson's poems was being prepared, Colonel Higginson wrote to his co-editor Mrs. Todd,
“One poem only I dread a little to print--that wonderful 'Wild Nights,'--lest the malignant read into it more than that virgin recluse ever dreamed of putting there. Has Miss Lavinia [Emily Dickinson's sister] any shrinking about it? You will understand & pardon my solicitude. Yet what a loss to omit it! Indeed it is not to be omitted.”
His comments reflect both the sexual narrowness of his times and the Myth of Emily Dickinson, Virgin Recluse.
Writing a parody of Emily Dickinson’s “Wild Nights” was quite a challenge. An easy direction I could have taken – as with any parody – would have been to write a take-off chalk full of double-entendre and innuendo. However, given the passion and desire in “Wild Nights,” such a send-up would seem redundant.
Another course I could have taken would have been to write a parody on the antithesis of “wild nights,” but the faint-heartedness and timidity of “calm days” just didn’t work for me. I even considered a parody simply based on rhyming the words “wild nights,” but there weren’t many options for “wild,” and when paired with “nights,” the options diminished greatly (“Child fights”? “Styled Tights”? “Smiled Frights”?)
An early attempt for my parody did continue the use of the long “i” vowel sound and staccato character of “Wild Nights!” as I was going to write about the thrill and exhilaration associated with roller coasters and other “Wild Rides!” at amusement parks. However, that led me to “Wild Rice!” – and the minute I uttered the words, “Wild Rice!,” I knew that I found a subject absurd enough to lampoon “Wild Nights,” and “steamy” enough to match Dickinson’s passion.
Of course, imagery of cooking has often been used to suggest insinuations beyond the kitchen, from Hank Williams, “Hey good looking, what you got cooking?” to Joni Mitchell’s “Raised on Robbery”:
I'm a pretty good cook
I'm sitting on my groceries
Come up to my kitchen
I'll show you my best recipe
Therefore, the use of “Wild Rice!” to mimic Dickinson’s “Wild Nights!” was certainly apropos!
A couple of other points to note:
* I maintained the structure of lines 5, 7 and 8 of the Dickinson poem.
* I changed "Eden" (in line 9 of Dickinson's poem) to "eaten" (in line 9 of my poem).
Once, while I was driving around with my wife, I sang along to Elton John's "Benny and the Jets": "She's got electric boots, a mohair suit, you know I read it in a magazine." My wife was astonished that I actually knew the correct lyrics because I regularly mix-up and muddle the lyrics to all of the songs I sing along with. I had to admit that I knew the lyrics from singing along with the liner notes when I owned the album back in my college days. The lyrics are challenging if one does not have a printed copy. Most listeners probably think that Elton John is singing something like, "She's got electric boobs, a mohawk too, you know a rabbit in a magazine. Oh, B-B-B-Benny and the Jets."
This idea of mixing up lyrics inspired my parody of Emily Dickison's "I found the words to every thought" -- which I readily turned to "I goof the words to every song."
Years ago, before cell phones and digital technology, I worked in a hotel where the telephone operator (called the PBX Operator) used to deliver wake up calls to guests by saying with her Southern drawl, "Good moanin'." I don't know if that memory played a part in inspiring this parody, but it surely surfaced once I constructed the first line, "The Pun— just prompted moaning—" since the original poem is about the break of dawn.
In writing this parody, I tried to maintain aspects of Dickinson's poem whenever possible; however, I knew that would be extremely difficult (and not entirely achievable) since I also wanted to include a few puns in my version. Some examples where I was able to remain true to the Dickinson poem:
Line 1: The rhythm of the opening line-- along with the rhyme of "pun" for "sun" and the assonance of "moaning" for "morning"
Line 2: The rhythm of the line, and the initial consonant sounds for most of the line
Line 7: The rhythm of the line-- and replacement of "who heard" for "for her" (and the words "Heaves of Sigh" sure sound Dickinson-esque)
Line 8: The rhythm of the line
Line 13: The rhythm of the line, and the word choices ("sputtered" in place of "fluttered"; and the continued use of "staggered")
Of course, what adds humor to my poem are the puns; in case you didn't catch them all on the first reading:
Lines 4 & 5: "anti-gravity" -- "impossible to put down"
Lines 11 & 12: "throw dirt" -- "sure to lose ground"
Line 14: "grew to Groan" (as in "grew to grown")
There are other examples of word play in my parody as well:
Lines 8 & 9: "the running Gag" "gagged...."
Lines 15 & 16: "The humorless Tickle" / "Like the tickled funny Bone"
I have to admit that it took me quite a bit of time to figure out a direction for a parody for this poem; however, once I figured out the opening line, the final version of the parody didn't take long at all! I hope you enjoyed it!
Concerning the parody below: I recently corresponded with Emily Fragos about her book on The Letters of Emily Dickinson
(at right), and she noted, "My favorite of your parodies: 'My wife clothed twice before she chose.' It does a super job of using the pun and copying the original."