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A little Dickinson for a Saturday

I've just started reading The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. It contains 1775 poems, drafts and fragments written by Emily Dickinson, with information about the date the poem was written (when known), when it was first published, etc. The prefatory material makes clear that sometimes Miss Dickinson wrote multiple fair copies of her poems, with minor differences as to certain wording — and without expressing a clear preference or choice as to which version was "final." In such a case, only one version is in this book. Which means that I don't get to see the other options, which I think I'd dearly love to do — it would say a lot about her writing and editing process, I believe.

The weather has become warm again this weekend after a week's worth of temperate, autumn-like days. Acorns have been cracking themselves on the back deck. The dogwood out front is tinged with red and brown, and the green leaves are starting to fade, preparing for their transition into bursts of color before settling on almost uniform browns and taupes. Small wonder that the poem numbered 12 caught my eye and imagination as thoughts turn to fall:

The morns are meeker than they were —
The nuts are getting brown —
The berry's cheek is plumper —
The Rose is out of town.

The Maple wears a gayer scarf —
The field a scarlet gown —
Lest I should be old fashioned
I'll put a trinket on.






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( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
liz_scanlon
Sep. 22nd, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
1775 poems.

Oh my god.
kellyrfineman
Sep. 22nd, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
She wrote more than 300 in a single year. Imagine.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 22nd, 2007 10:21 pm (UTC)
Is this a new anthology? Sounds great.

Jules, 7-Imp (who is way behind on blog-reading and trying to get caught up)
kellyrfineman
Sep. 23rd, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
Turns out it's not new at all -- it's been out since 1961 (in hardback), and per the cover page, mine's from the 37th printing (or something around there). It's way cool, though, to have so many of them all together.
writerross
Sep. 23rd, 2007 11:53 am (UTC)
"We Walked 15 Miles in the Snow to get to School... and We Liked It!"
Hmm. I don't think it's a newly-published collection of her work. I recognize the cover. I think we used it in my English classes at NYU. I can still see the cover of our YEATS' textbooks too. Those delicious covers even had a smell I conjure up if I try to go back to those awesome academic days.

Funny how book covers are seared into my head much the same way I can still recall an ALBUM cover's artwork! CDs are technologically ideal and I hate to complain, but does anyone study their LOOK and liner notes the way we did when you held a big ol' album in your hands? CD cases serve a function: to hold the disc (and to wreak havoc on one's nails and frustrations in trying to yank off the plastic and snap open the CD prongs!)

The New Old Pamela
sheela_chari
Sep. 22nd, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
What a coincidence. I just used some Emily Dickinson in my YA yesterday. My MC reads one of her poems out loud to a patient.

I love her dashes--
kellyrfineman
Sep. 23rd, 2007 12:17 am (UTC)
I am now enjoying her dashes, although they used to flummox me. I'm glad you had your MC read the poem out loud, because that's really how she designed them — and it's how her dashes operate best. They really indicate a pause (similar to a rest in music), not a parenthetical notion (usually).
sheela_chari
Sep. 23rd, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
Oh good. That's what my MC figures out what to do with the dashes - to pause. Wow, he's better than I thought. :)
de_scribes
Sep. 23rd, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)
I was going to ask you if was new too. I think I have this one. Must go looky.

What a fabulous poem. I love that the rose is out of town, and gown\on--like she doesn't see herself as a part of this beauty she sees (probably way off the mark, eh?).
kellyrfineman
Sep. 23rd, 2007 01:58 pm (UTC)
I love how she stays out of it until the last 2 lines. She sticks with describing nature — the roses are done for the season, berries and nuts are finishing up, the maple trees are turning color and even the field is turning color. I love how she consciously decides to participate and put something shiny? colorful? on. Something for display, anyway.
fabulousfrock
Sep. 23rd, 2007 03:21 am (UTC)
Ooh, I like this one.
kellyrfineman
Sep. 23rd, 2007 01:59 pm (UTC)
Did you put a trinket on as well?
fabulousfrock
Sep. 23rd, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
Perhaps I will today, for the Equinox!

Although this being Florida, none of the fall characteristics she described are even remotely in swing yet. Sigh.
jeannineatkins
Sep. 23rd, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC)
Dickinson drafts
Yes, you and many others who would give up arms to see those revisions. Even the order in which she put the poems. I was lucky enough to take a modern poetry class with Charles Simac in grad school, and he was nearly in tears as he explained how Emily's dear sister in law Lavinia, with all good intentions, took apart and restacked the bundles Emily had tied with ribbon, wanting to neaten things up.
kellyrfineman
Sep. 23rd, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Dickinson drafts
Aww . . .that's a sweet story. The introduction written by Johnson makes clear that some of her poems contain possible alternate words in places, and that sometimes (but not always) one is underlined. Those alternate words aren't part of the collection — where one was underlined, they used it; if not, they used the word in the original draft.

I do that myself while writing poems — jot down alternate words or turns of phrase, so that when I go back and revise, I can decide which to pick for my fair copy. But in Dickinson's case, there are some where she didn't get to go back and make the call herself, so one can only guess what she'd have done. Perhaps gone with the original? the alternate? "none of the above"?
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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