"The Plenty Hurt Me:" An Experiment with Emily Dickinson, Elena Rivera & Me

Last Saturday at Bard College I was in a room with Elena Rivera and eleven others. Elena had given us an alphabetized list of words from an unnamed poem by an unnamed poet. We were to cut up this list and make a poem using all of the words. Outside the second story window, the first snow of the season fell. There was silence. Scissors slicing, people gluing, sometimes sighs. I entered the moment. No anxiety. Moving language for 20 or 30 minutes. This is what I came up with. Some words are capitalized as they were in the list and in the original poem which turned out to be Emily Dickinson's poem #579 from the Johnson edition. You'll find that poem right below mine.

Working with Dickinson's bits of language is meditative, underscores the making in poiesis and how much the activating subjectivity of the person moving words enters the language via arrangement.

Come Home


Nature’s in Noon–- takes away Wine

ample Myself Entering

so seen did hurt near me



a shared Mountain–- of felt hope

And found Bush Crumb

Mine Plenty trembling Room



turning outside Bread

odd, could My Hunger know Birds Persons

unlike the way Years

touched as

drew Road nor That new berry

not Transplanted

Tables Windows

When all was


often looked on-- to--

had been hungry-- for this-- Dining

Written Using the vocabulary of Emily Dickinson’s poem #579
Robin Tremblay-McGaw
December 5, 2009

Emily Dickinson's Poem # 579

I had been hungry, all the Years---
My Noon had Come --to dine--
I trembling drew the Table near--
And touched the Curious Wine--

'Twas this on Tables I had seen--
When turning, hungry, Home
I looked in Windows, for Wealth
I could not hope --for Mine--

I did not know the ample Bread--
'Twas so unlike the Crumb
The Birds and I, had often shared
In Nature's--Dining Room--

The Plenty hurt me--'twas so new--
Myself felt ill--and odd--
As Berry--of a Mountain Bush--
Transplanted--to a Road--

Nor was I hungry--so I found
That Hunger--was a way
Of Persons outside Windows--
The Entering--takes away

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