Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nine Things I Still Have to Say to Billy Collins

1. Anyone can undress Emily Dickinson. Sure, she seems unavailable, distant in that east coast kind of way. Maybe even a little gay. That’s what makes her Emily Dickinson. You just have to be the kind of person who mistakes any woman in white for a bride, who treats each broad pause on the page as an open door, no need to knock. Consider her all icing. She is (we are) after all just waiting for you to provide the cake.

2. While the complexity of women’s undergarments in 19th century America is not to be waved off, simple misogyny is easily disguised as an abiding metaphorical interest in cartography.

3. Set the map’s agenda and select traits of the object to be mapped. This is the concern of map editing. Objects may be physical, such as roads or land masses, or abstract such as women writers who will never (ever) have sex with you.

4. Represent the terrain of the mapped object on flat media. This is the concern of map projections.

5. Where Emily is ocean, imagine her as tap water kept safe in your city reservoir. Find a clever glass to pour her into.

6. Eliminate characteristics of the mapped object that are not relevant to the map’s purpose. This is the concern of generalization.

7. When veering dangerously close to live animal of her body, ignore the swoon and thump of her heart’s mute muscle, enter her into the record as iceberg.

8. Reduce the complexity of the characteristics of that will be mapped. This also the concern of generalization.

9. Insist on Emily’s loneliness. Lonely is never busy, never dedicated to her art or otherwise engaged. Lonely is not an occupation and definitely not a career. Lonely is mute, curtained, meaningless. Lonely stands motionless in Amherst forever, a little wide eyed, looking out the window at the orchard below, hoping for company and that’s your job, tiger.

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