Volcanoes be in Sicily

It was mentioned to me, after my conversation starter, that flowers weren’t the only metaphor used for sexual imagery.  Dickinson may have used volcanoes in a similar way. However, volcanoes can also be interpreted as imagination or emotion. So how did you read “Volcanoes be in Sicily”? Which words or phrases specifically gave you that interpretation?

Christine’s Conversation Starter

I just want to take a moment and talk about our X-Rated Dickinson. “I tend my flowers for thee” forced me to question her status as the “pure-minded spinster” that everyone made her out to be. Did this poem make anyone else question this reputation or did it further strengthen it? Why or why not?

When I first read this poem, the meaning of it flew way over my head. However, as I read it slower I began to understand that the flowers represented the prime of the speaker’s life and how it was being wasted away while they waited for their love. Still, it wasn’t until I got to the VoiceThread questions that I recognized the sexual imagery that was hidden within the poem. (Did anyone else read the poem a couple of times only to get different interpretations each time? What were they?)

It all started with the cactus. I was really confused by the lines “My Cactus-splits her Beard/ To show her throat-.” I had no idea what was going on in these lines until I read that there is a plant called the bearded cactus (https://goo.gl/images/7GvzmJ). However, I thought-“With all of the other delicate flowers, why would Dickinson choose to include a bearded cactus? Maybe she wants this plant to stick out to her readers.”

And that’s when it hit me…

What if the cactus represented a certain hairy, womanly area?! What if all of the flowers represented that body part or other body parts? I reread the poem with this metaphor and it changed the WHOLE poem for me.

“I tend my flowers for thee”
“Carnations—tip their spice—/ And Bees—pick up— (Bees being males)
“A Hyacinth—I hid—/ Puts out a Ruffled Head—/ And odors fall” (This is a Hyacinth-https://goo.gl/images/Jv5wKw)

Did anyone else interpret similar sexual imagery? In what ways does Dickinson approach sexual imagery similar to, or different from, Whitman? Are there any other lines that stand out to you that seem particularly provocative? Are there any other poems (or lines in other poems) that can be read in a similar manner? Why do you think Dickinson chose to include a bearded cactus? How might we be able to understand Dickinson’s beliefs on femininity within this poem? Why might Dickinson feel like she needed to hide the sexual imagery so much?

I’m excited to hear everyone’s different opinions. After all…

Word Count: 401