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The enclosure experienced in the place of the mind, an enclosure that can mean confinement and internal strife, is established with an architectural vocabulary. Yet those same windows and doors can as well outline the spaciousness that only the imagination can create, reminding us once again of the power that is derived from the cultivation of consciousness. . . .

At first glance this poem may appear not to be about the mind; because although the place where the speaker lives, Possibility, is definitely a house, its chambers are "as the Cedars," its roof "the Gambrels of the Sky." However, it would be wrong to assume that this house is the house of nature. Rather, the poem is explaining that the imagination can be as vast as the subjects of its speculations. The language building this house attests to its figurative construction. Its rooms are not cedars but like cedars--solid, "Impregnable of Eye." Its roof is as high as the sky. The sky has, literally, no gambrels; but if one were to imagine a roof-like sky, then that would be the room of this house.

This house is "Possibility," the imagination. Dwelling there, the lady of the manor makes not cakes but poetry. Possibility becomes associated with poetry in stanza one, when it is contrasted with its opposite--not impossibility, but prose. Thus, the occupation of she who lives in the mind, the spreading wide her narrow hands "to gather Paradise," may be interpreted as the creation of poetry. Paradise is the farthest space conceivable, and the mind can expand to include it. When this happens, because of the power of the imagination, the "housewife" can be a poet.


From The Undiscovered Continent: Emily Dickinson and the Space of the Mind. Indiana University Press, 1983. Copyright © 1983 by Suzanne Juhasz.