Emily Dickinson’s “It was not Death, for I stood up” at first glance to be a poem about death or rather what death feels like. Throughout the poem Ms.Dickinson describes how the event the speaker experienced could not have been death. In the very first stanza the speaker says “It was not Death, for I stood up, And all the Dead, lie down—). Though some of the feelings were similar, the end result was the opposite of what should have happened. For example, the speaker describes the feeling of death as “frost” but in his/her experience it was not “frost” because he/she on his/her flesh “felt Sirocos-crawl” (6). According to Webster dictionary, sirocos spelled sirocco, is hot winds. These winds being the direct opposite of what death is supposed to feel like according to the speaker. Dickinson follows this same pattern of opposites throughout the first and second stanzas.
Dickinson could have chosen to simply describe despair as what the speaker felt. Instead, Dickinson chose to describe the feeling as what she did not feel, in comparison to death. In all of the stanzas, the only one to have an end is the last stanza. A period comes after the word despair. The word despair, which itself is alone, separated by a dash from the rest of the phrasing “To justify—Despair” (24). This could possibly show that the subject of this poem is not simply despair but despair over loss.
There are also phrases of the poem which have no context in which the reader can understand what the speaker is referring to. One such example being the first three lines of the last stanza “But, most, like Chaos—Stopless—cool/Without a Chance, or Spar/Or even a Report of Land” (21-23). Dickinson capitalizes words within phrases of stanzas. Most of the capitalized words relate to death such as the capitalization of “Burial,” “Midnight,” “Death,” “Dead,” “Flesh,” etc. Overall, Dickinson’s poems do not seem to have a concrete meaning. Rather they stem from one central idea such as death, and explore different aspects of it. “It was not Death, for I stood up” could possibly be exploring despair from death, life or realization of mortality.