Monday, September 09, 2013

"The Brain, Within its Groove" by Emily Dickinson

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly--and true--
But let a Splinter swerve--
'Twere easier for You--

To put a Current back--
When Floods have slit the Hills--
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves--
And trodden out the Mills--

-Emily Dickinson

In the world of MOOCs, few courses have had the creativity and success as the course about "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry" by Dr. Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania and Director of its wonderful Kelly Writers House.

Few courses, in real life or online, have such a dedicated teacher as Al.

The course, part of Al's regular teaching at UPenn in its English Department, was first presented in MOOC form this time last year at Coursera. The ten-week course is back, having opened over the weekend to over 30,000 students, myself included (second timer). Week after week, this likely remains the largest single collection of dedicated students reading and discussing the same poets and poems at any one time on the planet. And it remains intimate, lively, and interactive.

Although I am in the outlier minority in terms of my interpretation of Emily's poem (above) - seeing it as tragic, whilst the common interpretation is one of freeing ones' self from the mundane - as a neuropsychologist, discussing it is one of the true highlights of the course for me.

It is a wonderful experience. Neuroscientists need poetry. Join us!

1 comment:

christine swint said...

47I see the dangers implicit in this poem. If thoughts swerve or lose control, chaos ensues. It could be a real calamity. I think she might be getting at the perils of the imagination, and how if you decide to take the risk of writing poetry and emboldening the imagination, be prepared for the power of the unconscious, the creative mind, to unleash itself.