Most readers have a vague idea of Emily Dickinson (1830–86) as a reclusive mid-19th-century New England spinster who wrote much verse but published almost nothing. Previous modern editions have presented her work in chronological order. This new collection, edited by Cristanne Miller, a professor of English at the University of Buffalo in New York, mirrors the arrangements of the poems that Dickinson produced herself in manuscript booklets made up of folded sheets that she tied together with string (they were given the ungainly term ‘fascicles’ by an early editor). These are supplemented by poems left on unbound sheets, stray pieces of paper and envelopes. Although few of the poems are grouped together by theme, this book brings us as close as we can get to how the author presented her work without going online to the Emily Dickinson Archive or Amherst College Digital Collections to view images of the original manuscripts. Sparing us the task of deciphering the poet’s sometimes challenging handwriting and presenting intriguing variants, this edition demonstrates why generations of writers have been galvanised by Dickinson.
In 1958, the Romanian aphorist Emil Cioran noted in his Cahiers: ‘for months, all my instants of anguish have been spent in the company of Emily Dickinson.’ Two years later he remarked that he would ‘trade all other poets’ for Dickinson. Cioran may have said as much to his friend