“I’m in Communion with Emily Dickinson.” Jennifer Michael Hecht on How to Navigate Our World Through Poetry
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Jennifer Michael Hecht is the guest. Her new book The Wonder Paradox: Embracing the Weirdness of Existence and the Poetry of Our Lives, is out now from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
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From the episode:
Brad Listi: I’d be curious to hear you talk about a specific way in which you yourself use the methodology that you’re laying out in this book. Can you give an example of a particular situation in your life where you’ll combine ritual and poetry and maybe aspects of the religion that you came up in or religions that you’ve absorbed in your adult life.
Jennifer Michael Hecht: You know, there are different things that come to mind. And people do ask me this question, and I always find myself weirdly unprepared for it. Because I live in so much poetry that it’s hard for me personally. And I make this point in the book that there are other people who if you’re a poetry professor, you probably don’t need to single these out they’re probably already coming at you in these moments.
But, you know maybe it’s obvious by the fact that I’ve written my eighth book. Some people are set out into the world with those that combination of things that makes you put work above everything else in a certain mad way. And I think, well, what I’m trying to say is sometimes I go for a walk and Emily Dickinson’s I’m nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody — too? Then there’s a pair of us! Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know! How dreary – to be – Somebody! How public – like a Frog – To croak one’s name. The livelong day to an admiring Bog!
Brad Listi: And you say this out loud as you’re passing the person?
Jennifer Michael Hecht: That’s a good idea. Yeah, in New York I’m not sure we would notice the difference. You know, I think that she wrote it for me. And I’m in communion with Emily Dickinson when I think of it. I don’t ask myself to think of it because the sound of my footsteps sometimes clicks in. I’m nobody! Who are you? So that one is something that I’ll take on a walk with me.
Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of The Wonder Paradox: Embracing the Weirdness of Existence and the Poetry of Our Lives, available from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. Hecht, a historian and poet, is the award-winning and bestselling author of the histories Doubt, Stay, The Happiness Myth, and The End of the Soul. Her poetry books include Who Said, The Next Ancient World, and Funny. She earned her PhD in history from Columbia University and teaches in New York City.