'By such and such an offering' by Emily Dickinson

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By such and such an offering
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Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, By Emily Dickinson: A Criticism and Interpretation

Emily Dickinson, one of the most important poets in American literature, has written more than 1,700 poems in her lifetime. Her poetry is characterized by her distinct style, which often includes unconventional punctuation, capitalization, and syntax. One of her most famous poems is "Poetry," also known as "By such and such an offering." In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze this poem and explore its themes and meanings.

The Text

Before delving into the analysis of the poem, let's first read and understand the text:

I dwell in Possibility –

A fairer House than Prose –

More numerous of Windows –

Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –

Impregnable of Eye –

And for an Everlasting Roof

The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –

For Occupation – This –

The spreading wide my narrow Hands

To gather Paradise –

Emily Dickinson, "Poetry"

At first glance, "Poetry" seems like a simple poem about the beauty and power of poetry. However, upon closer inspection, we realize that the poem is much more complex than that. In the following sections, we will analyze the poem line by line and explore its various themes and meanings.


The poem begins with the line "I dwell in Possibility," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The word "possibility" suggests that the speaker is not limited by what is tangible or known, but rather lives in a world of imagination and creativity. This is further emphasized by the use of the word "dwell," which suggests a sense of permanence and belonging.

The second line, "A fairer House than Prose," compares poetry to prose, implying that poetry is a superior form of expression. The word "fairer" suggests that poetry is more beautiful or aesthetically pleasing than prose. This is an interesting comparison, as prose is often seen as more straightforward and accessible than poetry.

The third and fourth lines, "More numerous of Windows – / Superior – for Doors," further emphasize the idea that poetry is more expansive and open than prose. The use of the word "windows" suggests that poetry allows for more viewpoints and perspectives, while the word "doors" implies that poetry is more welcoming and accessible.

The fifth and sixth lines, "Of Chambers as the Cedars – / Impregnable of Eye –," introduce the idea of chambers, or rooms, within the "possibility" that the speaker dwells in. The comparison to cedars implies that these chambers are strong and enduring. The phrase "impregnable of eye" is more difficult to decipher, but could suggest that these chambers are difficult to fully understand or perceive.

The seventh and eighth lines, "And for an Everlasting Roof / The Gambrels of the Sky –," continue the metaphor of a house or dwelling. The use of the word "everlasting" suggests that the roof is eternal or timeless, while the phrase "gambrels of the sky" implies a sense of grandeur or majesty.

The ninth and tenth lines, "Of Visitors – the fairest – / For Occupation – This –," introduce the idea of visitors to the speaker's dwelling. These visitors are described as "the fairest," which could suggest that they are beautiful in appearance, but could also imply that they are the most deserving or worthy of being there. The phrase "For Occupation – This –" suggests that the visitors have come to occupy or inhabit the space that the speaker has created.

The final four lines of the poem, "The spreading wide my narrow Hands / To gather Paradise –," are perhaps the most difficult to interpret. The image of the speaker's "narrow Hands" spreading wide implies a sense of release or letting go, while the phrase "to gather Paradise" suggests a desire to attain something beyond what is currently known or experienced. The use of the word "Paradise" implies a sense of utopia or idealism, which could be seen as the ultimate goal of poetry.


Now that we have analyzed the poem line by line, we can begin to explore its various themes and meanings. One of the most prominent themes in "Poetry" is the idea of imagination and creativity. By describing her dwelling as "possibility," the speaker suggests that she lives in a realm of endless potential and opportunity. This is further emphasized by the various metaphors of the poem, which compare poetry to a house with many rooms and windows. Poetry, in this sense, is seen as a way of accessing and exploring the unknown and the unattainable.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of beauty and aesthetics. The speaker repeatedly emphasizes the beauty and superiority of poetry over prose, suggesting that poetry is a more aesthetically pleasing and rewarding form of expression. This is perhaps best captured in the final lines of the poem, where the speaker describes her desire to "gather Paradise." This suggests that poetry is not just a means of expression, but also a means of attaining something greater than oneself.

Finally, "Poetry" can be seen as a meditation on the power of language and the importance of communication. By describing poetry as a house with many windows and visitors, the speaker suggests that poetry is a way of connecting with others and sharing one's innermost thoughts and feelings. This is further emphasized by the use of the word "Occupation," which implies a sense of purpose and responsibility in creating and sharing one's poetry.


In conclusion, "Poetry" by Emily Dickinson is a complex and multi-layered poem that explores themes of imagination, beauty, and communication. Through her use of metaphor and imagery, Dickinson creates a vivid and captivating world that draws the reader in and invites them to explore the possibilities of poetry. Whether read as a call to creativity or a celebration of beauty, "Poetry" remains one of Dickinson's most enduring and beloved works.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry has always been a medium of expression for the human soul. It is a form of art that transcends time and space, and its beauty lies in its ability to evoke emotions and thoughts that are beyond words. One of the most celebrated poets of all time is Emily Dickinson, whose works have left an indelible mark on the literary world. Among her many offerings, "Poetry By Such and Such" stands out as a masterpiece that captures the essence of what poetry truly is.

At first glance, "Poetry By Such and Such" may seem like a simple poem, but upon closer inspection, one can see the depth and complexity of its meaning. The poem begins with the line, "Poetry is the thing with feathers," which is a metaphor for the lightness and freedom that poetry brings to the human spirit. Dickinson compares poetry to a bird, which is a symbol of flight and liberation. The use of the word "thing" instead of "creature" or "animal" emphasizes the intangible nature of poetry, which cannot be confined to a physical form.

The second line of the poem reads, "That perches in the soul." Here, Dickinson is suggesting that poetry is not just an external force that we can observe, but rather something that resides within us. The word "perches" implies a sense of stillness and contemplation, as if the bird is taking a moment to rest and reflect. This line also highlights the personal nature of poetry, as it is something that each individual experiences in their own unique way.

The third line of the poem states, "And sings the tune without the words." This line is particularly interesting, as it suggests that poetry can exist without the use of language. The bird's song is not made up of words, but rather a melody that transcends language barriers. This is a powerful statement about the universality of poetry, which can be appreciated by people of all cultures and backgrounds.

The fourth line of the poem reads, "And never stops at all." This line emphasizes the perpetual nature of poetry, which is always present and never-ending. The bird's song is continuous, just as poetry is a constant presence in our lives. This line also suggests that poetry is not something that can be turned on or off, but rather a force that is always present, whether we are aware of it or not.

The fifth line of the poem states, "And sweetest in the gale is heard." Here, Dickinson is suggesting that poetry is most powerful in times of turmoil and chaos. The word "gale" implies a sense of turbulence and upheaval, and yet it is in these moments that poetry can provide comfort and solace. This line also highlights the transformative power of poetry, which can turn even the most difficult of situations into something beautiful.

The final line of the poem reads, "And sore must be the storm that could abash the little bird." This line is a testament to the resilience of poetry, which can withstand even the harshest of conditions. The bird is small and vulnerable, yet it remains steadfast in the face of adversity. This line also suggests that poetry is not just a source of comfort, but also a source of strength and courage.

Overall, "Poetry By Such and Such" is a beautiful and powerful poem that captures the essence of what poetry truly is. Dickinson's use of metaphor and imagery creates a vivid picture of poetry as a force that is both personal and universal, light and powerful, and resilient in the face of adversity. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry, which continues to inspire and uplift us to this day.

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