This essay frames Dickinson as a poet relevant to contemporary ecological thinking and sustainability studies by examining the meditative awareness embedded in her poetic production. In particular, the essay theorizes Dickinson’s “breath poetics,” or the consistent attention she drew to conscious breathing, as a tool to endure suffering that also serves as the metaphorical vitality of her verse. Turning to poems such as “Through what transports of Patience” (Fr 1265), “I’ve dropped my brain - my soul is numb” (Fr1088), “Pain - has a Element of Blank - ” (Fr760), and “Great streets of silence lead away” (Fr1166), Dickinson’s breath poetics are read in relation to instances of temporal dissolution and dilation, punctuated pauses, and deixis, which signal textual inscription of meditative consciousness. In order to frame Dickinson’s breath poetics as a sustainable practice, the essay turns to Buddhist and Yogic texts, which offer fluid and established discourses concerning the distinct and interdependent stages of meditative engagement. In addition, the essay situates Dickinson’s contributions within a tradition of American meditation as articulated by Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Olson, Cavell, and Cameron. And while this essay positions Dickinson in relation to Eastern meditative philosophies, it also substantiates this move by establishing her as a poet relevant to the deployment of sustainability praxis. Breath awareness facilitates a presentminded capacity to both entertain and endure the epistemological rupture implicit in fronting the radical interconnectivity and related personal responsibility associated with ecological awareness.


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pp. 86-106
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