July PBF: Emily’s Island or the Dickinson-Gilligan Connection

Emily Dickinson, the name is synonymous for intellectualism and poetry. Dickinson most often employs the ballad stanza, a traditional form of poetry that is divided into quatrains, using tetrameter for the first and third lines and trimeter for the second and fourth, while rhyming the second and fourth lines (ABCB). Dickinson played with punctuation from time to time as her nearly 2,000 poems are all similar in stanza structure.

In short this predictable use of meter and rhyme means that almost all of Emily Dickinson’s poems can be sung to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.

gilliganwtfPictured: Not a synonym for intellectualism and poetry. 

Go on, try it yourself! here is the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song….

Now, sing one of  Dickinson’s most famous poems to the tune. Let’s pick ‘There is no Frigate like a book.’

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

Here it is sung by a high school student on youtube:

Weird, right? Apparently there are other songs that her poetry melds well with, Amazing Grace for instance, but that’s no fun. Gilligan’s Island is so beautifully irreverent. Now you’ll never be able to read one of her poems without singing it again. Try it out at a bar and watch all your literary friends freak out at how the queen of misanthropic poetry ended up mashing with a 1960’s screw ball sitcom theme song.


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