Benjamin Ivry

From the Scrapbook

Emily Dickinson’s Poems as She Preserved Them

By Cristanne Miller (ed)

Harvard University Press/Belknap Press 845pp £29.95 order from our bookshop

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. 

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