Emily Dickinson's Poem, My Life had stood---a Loaded Gun---

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There are dangers and risks if you are a woman and a poet. With a poetic voice comes a vast amount of power. The knowledge and power women gain from their craft can be dangerous. It is dangerous in terms of addiction, the inability to go back to a point when ignorance was available. There is a moment of recognition as a female poet who uses her words with effect, words that possess immense power, that despite this power, as a woman you are still incapable of controlling how your words will be directed. Dickinson was a poet who was in control of her words and yet simultaneously incapable of directing them to anyone but herself. In her poem “My Life had stood---a Loaded Gun---” the oppositions between male and female roles in the culture are predominant. This is a poem that expresses the anxiety of being a female poet. Dickinson feels a lack of agency as a woman and conveys her frustration with violent imagery. The “Loaded Gun” is her poetry and it is lethal. Yet without the “Owner”, the men of the world, it is incapable of performing its function. The maleness that Dickinson feels oppressing and governing her life rapes her of any self empowerment her poetry may otherwise grant her.

“My Life had stood---a Loaded Gun---

In Corners---till a Day

The Owner passed---indentified---

And carried Me away---”

The first line emphasizes the potential within her. The “Loaded Gun” refers to her craft, the poetry she wrote. In a sense then this poem itself is a “Loaded Gun” along with the rest of the poetry she wrote. The second line is representative of the fact that the gun has always existed. The gun did not suddenly appear it was not hidden from sight. It was in the corner, away from the center of focus, and it remai...

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...en suddenly implodes with aggression. The aggression is funneled outwards because the male directs it. As a result the poem concludes with an umbrella theme that states her victory and yet has underlying tones of an incomplete and insubstantial victory. In the language of the poem “The poet experiences herself as loaded gun, imperious energy; yet without the Owner, the possessor, she is merely lethal. Should that possession abandon her [she would be free to express and live in a manner she desired]--but [that] thought is unthinkable [for Dickinson because for her it lies outside the scope of reality, so deeply ingrained is the system of maleness in her life and experience]: "He longer must than I.” (Rich).

There is one poem which is the real "onlie begetter" of my thoughts here about Dickinson; a poem I have mused over, repeated to myself, and taken into myself.
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