Dickinson’s challenges in creating a secret language

Oct. 30.1969 (while analyzing “HAND”)

It is a compelling need of the secret language to avoid repetition of the same symbols as much as possible, so as not to arouse the suspicion of the reader. Considering that the theme and thesis of the heterosexual part of her poetry could be brought under the main title: The COMEDY AND THE DRAMA IN THE INTERCOURSE BETWEEN PENIS AND VAGINA, it is obvious that a symbol for penis and for vagina must appear in almost all poems. If she therefore used only one symbol for each of these genitals, the frequency of having to use them would let the secret of these symbols out in no time, and besides, would make the reading of the poems soon an unbearable irritation. As it is, she devised over 400 different symbols for each of these genitals, yet even so had to use some of the main ones from 50 to 150 times throughout the work. And again even so: with all this great diversification of symbols she could not avoid strong impressions of oddity, repetitiousness and irritability because of incomprehensibility inherent in so many of the poetic statements, vexing the reader. Critics have harped on this aspect of her poetry from the very beginning of its publication. Let us note that while she invented so many different symbols for relatively few organs, parts of organs, acts, and phases of activities, she tried to invest each of the synonymous symbols with some special meaning. It are these special meanings which I must discover during my present work of preliminary analysis of all the symbols.

March 28, 1970 (while analyzing “TUNE” )

“Tune” obviously belongs to the group of terms that take in the sphere of sound and hearing. It may be asked what sound effects could possibly occur during the intravaginal happenings of intercourse. None, of course. Yet was she compelled to include this group within the vocabulary of her secret language. Not because she needed them really to describe actions of the inner poem, for that she had plenty of symbols at her command, although, of course, she could well use additional ones for the sake of diversification and preservation of the esoterics of her secret language, which would come in danger of being penetrated, if too much repetitions of the same symbols should occur in her poetry. The real need for the group of sound symbols arose in the construction of the outer poems. As she was compelled to include ever more phenomena of nature and of human life within the set of parables and similes which she invented for her double-talk on matters sexual, she came under compulsion to introduce such phenomena in their sound effects also, if such were a peculiar characteristic of them. To give one example: if an extension of the flag symbol (a pole with something fluttering from it, to wit: penis in ejaculation) leads her to the variant of the church steeple from which the bells toll, then a need might occur, in the outer poem, to use terms of sound and hearing. In the course of the secret language’s development hundred of such particular needs arose, and it would be quite a study in itself to follow out the strange runes each of these needs created. The more this secret language proved itself a healthy, lusty, living organism capable of infinite development, the wider tentacles it would send out into all fields of nature and of life, for its parable , simile materials. The sphere of sound was only one of many.