Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Emily Dickinson - The Gorgeous Nothings

I've always been a fan of Emily Dickinson. Growing up in Western Massachusetts, close to Amherst, she always seemed like a local friend, albeit from a different era. She had an air of mystery, this recluse known as the "Belle of Amherst," and her poetry was a thrill for a young girl's mind, even if most of it escaped my understanding.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the museum which is now located at her homestead. It gave me a renewed appreciation for this poetic genius, who, for the most part, kept her poetry a secret during her life.

One place Dickinson composed her poetry was on the backs of envelopes. Not only did she write on the envelopes, but she also opened them and cut them into various shapes prior to use. The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems is an attempt to share with the general public the beauty and uniqueness of these poems that defy translation into simple typographical form. Featuring full photographic reproductions of over fifty of these poems along with a typed translation (Alas, Dickinson's handwriting is almost as bad as mine), the book is a feast for the eye and the mind.

In addition, scholarly commentary is offered by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner, along with a preface by Susan Howe, which invite the writer into Dickinson's world and encourage one to think about these poems created on fragments of paper more deeply.

This book would make a beautiful gift for a Dickinson fan or an English teacher. For those with more casual interest, it is definitely worth checking for at your local library simply to spend some time perusing and appreciating its pages and the one who crafted them.


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