On Reading the Poetry of Emily Dickinson

Emily is a friend you can never get to fully know even though you want to and will keep trying. The ultimate anti-celebrity, she remains largely inscrutable, which in today’s world seems like a perfect aspiration. Write beautifully. Leave people guessing about who you really are. That feels like a good motto.
Shelf life: Sarah Hampson on reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

First Trailer for Dickinson Movie Is Out

I really really really hope this movie lives up to my expectations.

The first trailer for the Dickinson biopic “A Quiet Passion” is out:


Dickinson’s Irish Maid

Shockingly, Dickinson told Maher to destroy the poems upon her death. While her sister Lavinia burned Dickinson’s correspondence after she died, Margaret found that she could not bring herself to destroy Dickinson’s lifetime of work. In tears, she brought the poems to Dickinson’s brother, who agreed that they should be saved. Maher also saved one of the few pictures we have of Emily Dickinson today, a daguerreotype that the family had discarded earlier.


A Poem Is Born: Pictures

Of Greyhounds and Falcons

I learn this lesson over and over, and I always forget it — it’s not “What poem can I write?” but “How can I write this one poem?” I kept treating this one like a peregrine falcon. Turns out it’s a greyhound.

All of Dickinson’s Creatures, Mostly Small

In her 1,789 poems, [Dickinson] refers to animals nearly 700 times, to plants almost 600 times, and to fungi four times. In her more than 350 references to flowers, the rose is most common (51 mentions) followed by daisies, clover, daffodils, and buttercups. She refers to birds 317 times, favoring the robin (47 mentions), followed by the bobolink, oriole, sparrow, blue jay, and blue bird. Although a few foreign species pop up now and then—the leopard, elephant, rhinoceros—the most frequently referenced creatures by far are the same ones she observed in her backyard every day—the bee, butterfly, and squirrel.

How Emily Dickinson Grew Her Genius in Her Family’s Backyard, by Ferris Jabr, Slate.

The Dickinson home, Amherst,                         Massachusetts 

Moar Emily

This review from 1999 is worth revisiting, including Benfey’s take on Franklin’s masterwork, The Poems of Emily Dickinson (“I think there will be wide agreement regarding most of Franklin’s editorial decisions.”)

The insights on Dickinson herself are marvelous:

It was at this juncture that Dickinson’s courage as a poet was confirmed, for Higginson was not encouraging. A conventional poet and nature writer himself, he dutifully pointed out her departures from those conventions. We don’t know exactly what he said (his letters, like most others sent to Dickinson, were destroyed at her request after her death), but her follow-up letters quoted some of his strictures. She thanked him, twice, for his “surgery,” but didn’t change a thing in her poems. 

The Mystery of Emily Dickinson, by Christopher Benfey, New York Review of Books.


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