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Featured Poem: I Felt a Cleaving in my Mind by Emily Dickinson

Written by Francesca Dolan, 16th May 2022

Today’s Featured Poem is 'I Felt a Cleaving in my Mind' by Emily Dickinson read by The Reader's Teaching and Learning Leader, Erin.

She explains, 'This poem was a new one to me that I found while reading through the anthology Through Corridors of Light, Poems of Consolation in Time of Illness edited by John Andrew Denny. This anthology is included in The Reader’s bookshelf for the year 2022-2023 with the theme ‘Light and Darkness’. What I loved about the poem is this idea of trying, and being unable, to fit things together in the mind.  Perhaps it’s the mention ‘seam by seam’ that I resonate with because of past attempts I’ve had trying to piece quilting projects together, or the image of ‘balls upon a floor’ that ‘ravelled out of reach’ which taps into my experiences of tangled knitting projects on the floor. Beyond how the poem reminds me of past crafting attempts, I really appreciate this space to think about a ‘cleaving in my mind’—that experience of trying to get ideas or processes to fit. I especially liked that it’s the ‘thought behind’ trying to be joined with the ‘thought before’ I was expecting it to be a mention of thoughts side by side, but this mention of ‘behind’ and ‘before’ made me think of times in my life when I’ve tried to make the path of my life or a decision I’ve made to make sense in a sequence. It’s not always the case that things fit or flow smoothly together.  It was a bit of a relief to hear this from Emily Dickinson’s poem, it helped me to accept that things don’t always fit together."

I felt a cleaving in my mind

I felt a cleaving in my mind

As if my brain had split;

I tried to match it, seam by seam,

But could not make them fit.

The thought behind I strove to join

Unto the thought before,

But sequence ravelled out of reach

Like balls upon a floor.

Emily Dickinson

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