Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Only Poem I Know and Some Thoughts About Blogging

Emily Dickinson Paper Doll, LeLapinTriste,

The only poem I've ever memorized is "I'm Nobody! Who are You?" by Emily Dickinson, probably because it's short and rhymes. This is also probably why it popped into my head recently for no reason, as errant as a fly in your soda at a picnic (which brings to mind another Dickinson classic, "I Heard a Fly Buzz -- When I Died." But that's a post for another day.)

"I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!"

Dickinson seems to be saying that fame is stressful and inferior to the peaceful bliss of being anonymous. Not a surprising viewpoint given Dickinson's reclusive existence. Yet society celebrates fame and those who embrace it. That's why Dickinson cautions her conspirator, "don't tell, they'd banish us, you know." Dickinson and her friend seem to be outcasts in a world in which everyone else wants to be famous. And on the surface, who could blame everyone else? Who wouldn't want all that glamour, adoration, and money? Or, on a deeper level, who wouldn't want to be publicly lauded for something he or she loves to do?

Oddly (or maybe not so oddly), this last question got me thinking about bloggers. Though far from celebrities (more like misfits huddled in basements), we share celebrities' thirst for attention. In a world increasingly supportive of social networking, many people don't think twice about reporting their likes, dislikes, whereabouts, thoughts, and feelings to all of Cyberspace. To Emily's way of thinking (certainly at this juncture we can call her Emily), such behavior would be decidedly frog-like and disruptive to private life. And yet despite the anonymity Emily enjoyed during her lifetime, she herself became immortal, her poems read all over the world. That's how I'm able to mull over her work in a public forum. But so what, right? Clearly, I'm blogging, putting myself out there, so I must disagree with her.

Not necessarily.

Emily seems opposed to fame because of the freedoms it usurps. The negative connotation of the words "dreadful," "public," "livelong," and even "frog" suggest that being a somebody requires giving up a part of yourself and that this sacrifice isn't worth the perks of being well-known. This, of course, is the problem with being a celebrity; they get to live the good life but at the expense of being constantly stalked, criticized, and under pressure to say the right thing.

Blogger or not, I tend to agree. In some ways we bloggers are anti-celebrities, hovering around the edges of the public world, snugly ensconced in pockets of privacy. Although we spill details about ourselves, we decide how much to reveal and how much to hold back. And if things get hairy, if something in our lives goes horribly awry due to something we published, then we can choose to pull the plug on our corner of the Web and slip into an Emily-like existence.

Not, of course, that I plan on anything like that ever happening :)

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