Quantitative demo: Dickinson > Poe

The other day I posted this portrait to my Tumblr over a caption by Emily Dickinson: “I see thee better in the dark.”


Instantly the likes and reblogs began pouring in, and by the time the flood let up there were 255 of them.

Last night I posted this portrait over a caption by Edgar Allan Poe: “How statue-like I see thee stand, / The agate lamp within thy hand!”


Total number of likes and reblogs as of late this morning: 2.


* With all her brass agleam, Miss Howe passes Mr. Death on the right.


** Susan Howe is the author of a book called Pierce-Arrow. The Pierce-Arrow made of metal, photographed here, was an American luxury car of the early twentieth century. Susan Howe’s vehicle, the Pierce-Arrow made of words, is a rhapsody on themes of and by and about Charles Sanders Peirce, an American philosopher who wrote an essay called “How to Make Our Ideas Clear” and died in poverty.

*** Susan Howe is also the author of a book called My Emily Dickinson.

**** Mr. Casaubon’s punch line: In this image, Miss Dickinson may be the passenger in the ghostly vehicle on the right. Her driver slowly drove, according to the trip log, but even a heartbeat moves enough to make us and the record in images of our lives unclear.

Source of the image: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/98508090/. Photoshopped.





Paradise unspeakable

Before photoshopping

and after,

this is a photograph by Jessie Tarbox Beals of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edmund Wilson at Millay’s Greenwich Village home in 1923 or 1924. In the background, of course, is Millay’s husband, Eugen Boissevain, and standing closer to the poet than either of her men is a Dada scarecrow. “Pick no flowers,” says one of the signs on the ground, and “Keep off the grass” says the other. In the restoration it’s easier to read the words and see that there are no flowers and no grass. A year or two after The Waste Land, the poet’s cozy little backyard looks like the punchline of a cozy little joke. This stony little Eden . . .

And Photoshop has brought the signs’ Edenic commandments back to unambiguous legibility. There on their plot of earth they still stand, saying as clearly as ever what it turns out they have never not said: No, and again No. Their command is still in force, too, because the poems that share the image with their fiat have been obliterated. Hanged in sunny silence within range of the prohibitions, the poems are forbidden fruit. If lusciousness can be realized through the shady business of language, it has no part in Paradise.

Source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010651186/