Emily Dickinson, Conceptualist Poet?

Not at all, of course, but now that the
manuscripts of Emily Dickinson held by Amherst College are available online (free!),
a new dimension of her work is emerging.

My favorite so far is this one:


One of my favorite examples of this difference is the poem “The way hope builds his house” (AC 450; Franklin 1512). Franklin describes this manuscript as “…in pencil on a fragment of an envelope…”

Franklin’s description makes no mention of the fact that this slit envelope looks a bit like a house. His transcription of the text doesn’t capture the way the first words are made to fit into the peak of the roof, nor does he include the three lines (dashes?) that separate the two stanzas (floors?). While the Franklin edition does capture the variant wordings that are found throughout Dickinson’s manuscripts, every editor has chosen one reading over another where Dickinson made no clear indication of her preference or intent. In this instance, the final line could be “Or mortised with the Laws” or “And mortised with the Laws”.

Digital Dickinson, by Mike Kelly


1 Comment

  1. You make a very good point there. Also, thanks for the link to the digital collection — it’s so cool to be able to see her handwriting & the actual manuscripts. If you’re interested in Dickinson, and doing some in-depth reading or such, check out the Emily Dickinson Lexicon, a project that takes all the words ED used in her poems and pairs them up with the dictionary definitions from the actual dictionary she was using. There is some interesting ‘lexicon-play’ going on, where her poems connect with the definitions etc. Anyway, cool post!

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