I taste a liquor never brewed— by Emily Dickinson

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

For the ancient Greeks, Dionysus, the god of the wine grape, was also the deity associated with dramatic poetry. Writing verse, and reading it, removed one from ordinary sense experience. Dickinson, though never invoking the god’s name, makes all she can of the association between intoxication and ecstasy in poem 214. The rhythm of a reel (a whirling dance) supports this imagery. Significantly, this poem privileges the reading of verse to the writing of it. The speaker “tastes” the never-brewed liquor, which is held in pearl tankards, the mother-of-pearl covered verse anthologies of Dickinson’s time. The “Frankfurt Berries,” the hops used to produce fine beer, could never yield as rich a brew as can the well-distilled language of great poetry.

Those who consume the insubstantial metaphors of verse become drunk, debauched on air and dew; they reel through summers that never end from inns under eternally blue skies. The speaker is unrepentant for her drunkenness. She will stop consuming verse only when the “Landlords” of nature...

(The entire section is 330 words.)