Emily Dickinson's A Fairer House Than Prose

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“I dwell in Possibility,” begins Emily Dickinson’s poem of the same name: “A fairer House than Prose” (1-2). That poetry is as beautiful and as powerful as its possibilities are unbounded is, in fact, intimated throughout the entirety of Dickinson’s poem; indeed, Dickinson almost seems to have written “I dwell in Possibility” entirely in response to a personal and remarkably fervent desire to see poetry being celebrated for its “numerous” merits and virtues (3).
It is interesting to note that the word “poetry” itself cannot be found in the first stanza of Dickinson’s poem. In fact, Dickinson never refers to “poetry” by its own name; she refers to the art form as “Possibility” instead (1). The abstract noun “Possibility,” curiously enough, is just that: abstract. It defies definition which, in turn, lends Dickinson’s narrator’s definition of poetry a sense of preeminence. “Possibility” is, after all, as Dickinson’s narrator affirms, a much finer and much “fairer House than Prose” (2). This sentiment is itself noteworthy for several
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That Dickinson chooses to liken poetry to a “House” at all is in and of itself fascinating, because the noun “House” connotes both comfort and security. Dickinson’s employ of the noun “House” – and of the entire “House” analogy – is therefore also indicative of her narrator’s perspective on the scope of the potential and power held by poetry. That the narrator believes this potential and power to be particularly prodigious is reiterated by Dickinson’s references to “numerous” “Windows” and “Doors” (3-4). The quantitative adjective “numerous” and the common concrete nouns “Windows” and “Doors” all speak to the notion of poetry’s being limitless – and they also speak to the notion of poetry’s functioning as an especially effective form of escape for its many

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