The Souls selects her own Society

 Juliet Stevenson

  The Souls selects her own Society by
  Emily Dickinson

  performed by Juliet Stevenson

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The Soul selects her own Society -
Then - shuts the Door -
To her divine Majority -
Present no more -

Unmoved - she notes the Chariots - pausing-
At her low Gate -
Unmoved - an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat -

I've known her - from an ample nation -
Choose One -
Then - close the Valves of her attention -
Like Stone -

Reproduced with kind permission from Harvard University Press

Interpretation by Dzifa Benson

A curious thing about Emily Dickinson’s poetry is that she didn’t give them titles, instead we refer to her poems by their first lines.  In this poem the first line can be understood in several ways, while Dickinson could be saying that she has the right to choose who to spend her time with it can also be interpreted as a declaration that Dickinson knows her own mind.  If we think about the times in which she lived, if we dig deeper into her biography, it is said that Dickinson lived quite a lonely existence and lost many people close to her.  Many people think of her as a recluse, who did indeed, carefully select those who got to share her counsel.  In this poem I see a strong woman who knows her own mind and who will not be swayed by force, wealth or grandeur and who can easily ‘close the Valves of her attention – Like Stone-’.

Dzifa Benson is a poet and journalist who writes poems, short stories and radio plays as well as contributing articles for newspapers such as the Guardian.  She is a well established performer as well as an experienced workshop facilitator in London.