Banish Air from Air — By Emily Dickinson

Banish Air from Air 
By Emily Dickinson

Banish Air from Air –
Divide Light if you dare –
They’ll meet
While Cubes in a Drop
Or Pellets of Shape
Fit –
Films cannot annul
Odors return whole
Force Flame
And with a Blonde push
Over your impotence
Flits Steam.


I picked this poem a month or so ago, when I read somewhere it would be good to read a poem a month!  FOR a month.  I picked this at random more or less.

So many interpretations!  (I like and hate that, i’ll pick something simpler next time.)

I loved finding Ashok Karra:

But I have another suggestion for reading this poem. There are those who, in the name of religion, develop purity tests. They must “banish air from air” and “divide light” for the sake of their standards. If I’m right, Dickinson is being very sneaky. She’s using language that would normally associate the practice of science with hubris to advance a critique of religious behavior.

It’s about spiritual bullshit?

Then Ashok mentions Mary Hurst — Pellets of Shape:Emily Dickinson’s Laboratory of Words
who says the poem is forging new language


Daneen Wardrop. Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing 2009. Amazon

It’s about lace!!

“… obscure in meaning, this poem may reference lace in the words “film” and “blonde” as they pertain to lace, cueing us to interpret the presence of a veil in “Banish air from air.” Dickinson uses the word “film” for lace, as she does in “The thought beneath so slight a film—,” and the word “blonde” as it was used commonly to describe the color of lace ranging from off-white to tan.

The phrase, “Blonde push,” cinehes the poem as dealing with lace, given that “blonde,” in nineteenth-century fashion magazines andadvertisements, was probably used more readily as an adjective for lace
than it was for hair.


And some say it is about love and sex.

Rebecca Patterson. Amazon


I Like Ashok Karra’s conclusion

We live 160 years apart from Dickinson and if there’s an understanding of religious overreach here, it feels apt. The opening of the poem, playing with ideas of hubristic, heretical science. The ironic twist, that some who are religious are conducting a perpetual experiment on the body politic, only to find that the world is more real than most ideas of it.

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