An introduction to Emily Dickinson is an introduction to poetry, which is certainly a great need in the world today. Unfortunately, a very up-to-date English text can offer rather poor and trivial examples of poetry. Poetry is not just verbal slush with a lot of feeling. A great poet is a great thinker, and an exact user of words. When slush is offered, students rightly conlude that poetry is unimportant. In true poetry, the intensity of feeling arises from the exactness with which a very particular circumstance is both describd and, simultaneously, evoked. And oddly enough, the very particularity of the circumstance often has a universal appeal. We have not all smelt mushrooms growing in the damp, but many of us have smelt something in childhood and come to associate that odor with all that is innocent and rich and full of peace. We feel the particularity of the poet's work reverberate with the particularity of our own lives, and we take joy from the memory and wisdom from the reflections of a serious thinker.
Most people do not realize that Emily Dickinson wrote over 1600 poems. Most would be astonished to learn that except for a few familiar lines which were published in 1892 and are found in every anthology, Emily Dickinson's work is still under copyright restrictions. This makes it expensive -- and used to make it also difficult -- for anyone to publish reflections on the interpretation of her poetry. Now it is becoming easier, but most of her biographers and commentators are shy of her religious and spiritual life.
The first part of this book was written by my mother for a cousin named Emily, just as she turned thirteen. Here, my mother paraphrases each of sixteen poems, so that meaning is clear. Sometimes, the poet's grammar grammar is a little turned around for the sake of the "music," and the confusion this causes makes some turn away from poetry altogether. Having made the primary meaning of the poem clear, my mother then offers some reflections from her own life and experience. When a poem becomes part of your life, you see why the words are just so, and not otherwise, and you will certainly come to love this very great American poet.
The second part of this book was originally written independently for my Aunt Mary, (so it is called "Mary's Book") and it explains some things about Emily's life and friendships, and about her love for God.
$22 for a soft-cover, perfect-bound book,
8 1/2" x 9 1/2", printed in deep green ink on cream-colored, acid-free paper. I think it will bring you joy.
Someday, I hope also to reprint also my mother's book The Farthest Thunder in which she compares Emily's thoughts about God with the writings of St. John of the Cross. Emily Dickinson's poetry provides a wonderful illustration of his single great poem, The Dark Night of the Soul. They provide a kind of flesh for St. John's philosophical flight.