*"Life is full of fanciful illusions conjured from thin air; dreams that are hostile to reality, but dwell in possibilities.**   

Heaven is what I cannot reach. Our expectations are often more satisfying than our achievements". *Emily Dickinson

Imagination is derived from the word image, a mental picture. Our imaginations need to be stimulated with images or triggers that allow the mind to suspend reality and float through a series of random thoughts. Word association, images and incantatory spells grip us and we are carried along in magic imaginary journeys with the composer.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Plato (427–347 BC) famously illustrated the difference between reality and illusion through a story about men who lived all their life in a cave, chained to pillars and could see only shadows cast on the cave’s back wall by a fire that burned behind them, out of sight.

The men in the cave took great pride in their eyesight and in their interpretive abilities—yet all the time they were looking at shadows, mere illusions. Then, one of the men breaks out of the chains and makes it outside of the cave where he discovers a whole new world. When he reenters the cave to tell his friends about his marvelous epiphany they reject and resent him to the point of wanting to kill him.

Einstein claimed, “Imagination is more important than logic; Logic will get you from A to B; imagination will get you anywhere”.

Creative writers extol the power of the imagination over that of logic. Logic appeals to the mind, but imagination is more holistic, affecting the mind, the senses, the emotions and the visceral. Through imagination we are taken on journeys that pierce the exterior and penetrate to the core, and conceive the real essence of things, especially in nature. Through fantasy, illusion, myth we can escape dreary reality and fancifully live in an alternative world which can become more real to us than the actual one. Modern technology attempts to create artificial or virtual realities.

T.S. Eliot insists that “human kind cannot bear very much reality”, echoing Kant’s “Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination.”

Walter Mitty is “an ordinary often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs” to cope with his inadequacies. The most famous of Thurber’s inept male protagonists, the character is considered “the archetype for dreamy, hapless, Thurber Man”.

Now that I have abandoned my search for truth, I am looking around for a good fantasy. Ashleigh Brilliant

Withdrawn Into Writing

Emily Dickinson, a bright young child, left a seminary after part of one year and returned home to Amherst. She traveled a few times after that – once, notably, to Washington, DC, with her father during a term he served in the U.S. Congress. But gradually, she withdrew into her writing and her home, and became reclusive. She began to wear dresses exclusively in white. In her later years, she did not leave her home’s property, living in her home and garden. While many of her lyrics are exultant or playful, others express intense pain:

Pain — has an Element of Blank — It cannot recollect When it begun — or if there were A time when it was not — It has no Future — but itself — Its Infinite realms contain Its Past — enlightened to perceive New Periods — of Pain.

According to James Antoniou, these lapidary offerings are often her most powerful, capturing trauma and grief in unique and imaginative ways. The reader is enveloped by a great truth which then flits away, and our longing for more — for the poet — grows. For anyone who has ever lost or longed for something beautiful, the effect can be staggering.

In 1955, Thomas Johnson “un-edited” Dickinson’s poetry, for the general public to experience her poems more as she’d written them, and as her correspondents had received them. Today, scholars still discuss and argue over the paradoxes and ambiguities of Dickinson’s life and work.

Emily is responsible for some of the fiercest, most cognitively-demanding and most deeply-felt poems ever written. Her eccentricity is increasingly being recognised as strategic rather than whimsical: by adopting an “eccentric” (literally, non-central) approach to poetry, she was able to explore concerns far beyond the parameters of her society. She could, crucially, circumvent the pieties and restrictions that published women poets at the time were expected to accept.

That inclination to “Tell all the truth but tell it slant –”, as she put it, resulted in some of the most deeply strange poems in the English language:

Nevertheless, sinking into individual Dickinson poems can be about as rich and rewarding as literary explication gets, and her poem beginning

“This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –”
is a singular example. An initial gloss of that opening line might read “There is an afterlife”; it appears to be an expression of faith.

But as the poem progresses, the speaker’s piety teeters, ending with the lines “Narcotics cannot still the Tooth [meaning doubt]
That nibbles at the soul –”

Suddenly the first line has transformed before the reader’s eyes. Those five simple words — “This World is not Conclusion” — now appear to mean that our world offers no conclusions about the spiritual plane; what started out as a religious line has become deeply agnostic.

In this sense her poems can seem like riddles, forever glimmering with different meanings, always one step ahead of the reader in the journey of “circumference”. The poems of a woman who had one of the subtlest and most original minds in literature, who described the sky as “Molten blue” and shadows during depression as “holding their breath”, and who casts a titanic shadow over 20th and 21st-century poetry.

So the pathos has persisted even though Dickinson’s words reveal a woman who was fun: a lover who joked; a mystic who mocked heaven. This woman was not like us: to know her is to encounter aspects of a nature more developed than our own. Her ­poems turn on the communicative power of the unstated between two people attuned to it. - James Antoniou - Spectrum Oct 26, 2019

Mel Campbell, editor and publisher of The Enthusiast defines Nostalgia as “the pang we feel upon realising the impossibility of returning to an idealised past. Coined in the 17th century to describe the pain of loss or a pathological homesickness, it’s now understood as a sentimental fondness for the cultures and values of bygone eras — often of one’s own childhood.” Chekov defines it as a longing for a lost past – a Golden Age. (Randall Jarrell, claims, “in a golden age people go around complaining about how yellow everything looks.”)

  • *Nostalgic people see the past through rose coloured glasses

Enchanting “ trips down memory lane” pensively indulging in the foggy charms of nostalgia, the fun and folly of romanticising the past; through a mist of reflection, things can be remembered better than they actually were, embracing the smokey beauty of the past, bathing in a perfumed mist of fact-tinged fantasy, can be beneficial – soothing or therapeutic for the soul - our self esteem.

Nostalgia’s just not what it used to be!

*Nostalgia is a denial of the pain of the present! ** ***Woody Allen

The soul selects her own society,

Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more
Unmoved, she notes the chariot’s pausing
At her own gate;
Unmoved an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.
I’ve known her from an ample nation
Choose one;
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.


I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! They’d banish us – you know!
How dreary to be Somebody!
How public – like a frog –
To tell your name – the livelong June-
To an admiring Bog!


Another Poem

** Fame is a bee.**
* It has a song –*
* It has a sting –*
* Ah, too, it has a wing.*