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Kannan, Trisha: "Em & Em: Emily Dickinson and Rap Music"

Em & Em: Emily Dickinson and Rap Music

Trisha Kannan, University of Florida

This pecha kucha brings together two disparate voices: Emily Dickinson and contemporary rapper Eminem. While the work of these two poets may be from different perspectives, time periods, and genres, the stark contrasts allow the parallels to be quite powerful. The poets do align in fascinating ways that reveal the unifying power of language. Both speak about the power of poetry: Dickinson writes, “The Poets light but Lamps – / Themselves – go out” (Fr930) and “The Martyr Poets – did not tell – / But wrought their Pang in syllable . . . Some seek in Art – the Art of Peace (Fr665); Eminem says, “And it helps in itself to relieve all this tension / Dispensin' these sentences is gettin' the stress that's been eatin' me / Recently off of this chest and I rest again peacefully.” Both speak about fame: “If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her” (L265); “This isn’t a game, this fame, . . . It's like the boy in the bubble, who never could adapt, I'm trapped / If I could go back, I never woulda rapped.” And the work of both has been subject to the scrutiny and censorship of readers, listeners, and critics—while Dickinson’s work has been in circulation for far longer than Eminem’s, Eminem has been far more exposed than Dickinson could have imagined (or feared.) The use of the pecha kucha will allow for a visual and textual representation of the connections I see in these two very different (yet fascinatingly similar) poets.