The lead casket will not be dumb, nor will Dickinson accept her appointed role as deathmother through silence or concealment. Dickinson's revisionist rejection evolves out ofthe imperative to speak against the silent Father and the Mother who restrains her fromfulfilling her desire. Thus, the "I" is doubly dependent. Yearning for theunattainable Father, she discovers him within her psyche; his strength turns against theself, making her victim of what she most desires. Thus, Dickinson must encounter andcontinually reenact the struggle with the exclusionary male who prefers to withhold ratherthan confer. Refused the assurance of becoming the Christa of American poetry or the newChrist as Whitman might triumphantly proclaim himself, Dickinson does not inheritEmerson's powers unchallenged. She first must resolve through aggression her need forsupremacy in imaginatively murderous acts that recur because murder of the tradition is amost illusory triumph. Hers is a poetics as aggressive as any male oedipal struggle, yetcomplicated by an intensified vulnerability, a consciousness of perpetual exile, theawareness of the impossibility of winning adequate patriarchal recognition. With hercharacteristic astuteness, Dickinson once remarked, "When the subject is finished,words are handed away." But her words, though they may have slowed in her finalyears, were never discarded because her subject achieves no resolution. Conflict overdeath becomes, indeed, a form of poetic life. Unable to write without the"Father," yet forced to vanquish him in order to survive, Dickinson, withsubtlety, wit, and death-defying irony, practices her murderous poetics. Sharp assurgeon's steel, this very praxis redeems the dependence her poems counter andmagnificently, if sacrificially, destroy.


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