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Considered by many to be the spiritual mother of American poetry, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was one of the most prolific and innovative poets of her era. Well-known for her reclusive personal life in Amherst, Massachusetts, her distinctively short lines, and eccentric approach to punctuation and capitalization, she completed over seventeen hundred poems in her short life Considered by many to be the spiritual mother of American poetry, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was one of the most prolific and innovative poets of her era. Well-known for her reclusive personal life in Amherst, Massachusetts, her distinctively short lines, and eccentric approach to punctuation and capitalization, she completed over seventeen hundred poems in her short life. Though fewer than a dozen of her poems were actually published during her lifetime, she is still one of the most widely read poets in the English language. Over one hundred of her best poems are collected here.


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Considered by many to be the spiritual mother of American poetry, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was one of the most prolific and innovative poets of her era. Well-known for her reclusive personal life in Amherst, Massachusetts, her distinctively short lines, and eccentric approach to punctuation and capitalization, she completed over seventeen hundred poems in her short life Considered by many to be the spiritual mother of American poetry, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) was one of the most prolific and innovative poets of her era. Well-known for her reclusive personal life in Amherst, Massachusetts, her distinctively short lines, and eccentric approach to punctuation and capitalization, she completed over seventeen hundred poems in her short life. Though fewer than a dozen of her poems were actually published during her lifetime, she is still one of the most widely read poets in the English language. Over one hundred of her best poems are collected here.

30 review for Poems (Shambhala Pocket Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Sweet skepticism of the Heart- That knows - and does not know- Sometimes there is only one place to go: within, where the mind and body communicate poetically. Those poets of her time, they stayed securely snuggled into their worlds, while she traversed the unbeaten paths around them, creating abstract spaces made tangible through musicality. They stayed within their conformed art and hers elevated both the physical and mental, while she wrote from a house they deemed her prison, but one that wou Sweet skepticism of the Heart- That knows - and does not know- Sometimes there is only one place to go: within, where the mind and body communicate poetically. Those poets of her time, they stayed securely snuggled into their worlds, while she traversed the unbeaten paths around them, creating abstract spaces made tangible through musicality. They stayed within their conformed art and hers elevated both the physical and mental, while she wrote from a house they deemed her prison, but one that would become this artist's fortress. Shall I take thee, the Poet said To the propounded word? "She was aware of external standards but did not strive to adhere to them." They wrote with one accord, while she created her own rules: dashes to replace punctuation, incorrect spelling, melancholia refined through unique language and made beautiful on the page. Shame is the shawl of Pink In which we wrap the Soul To keep it from infesting Eyes- The elemental Veil She didn't marry, didn't do many of the things expected of a woman living in her century. In fact it took a while for her art to be seriously recognized. Still, she wrote. She wrote to figure out the pain she lived with. She wrote to conquer her fears. She wrote to bring us introspection through the word. And when she had no friends, when she was betrayed by lovers, she wrote about the solace she found in Nature, the peace she found in the still of the universe. My best Acquaintances are those With Whom I spoke no Word - Over the years, I've read a few of her poems here and there, but this edition, this collection, is my favorite. It is one to have on the shelf and revisit. I stayed with this for some time, savored Dickinson's words, viewed the world through her poet's eyes, as I followed the chronological organization of her poems. The poems are arranged according to years, 1850 and onwards, towards the 1880s, around the time of her death (although the numbering is different which is a bit annoying because Dickinson's poems rely on numbers as titles). 1877 I think is my favorite year, when some of her longer poems occur, at times both scathingly introspective and inclusive of the natural world, confident, opinionated.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rita Schuldt

    #31 They shut me up in Prose- As when a little Girl They put me in the Closet Because they liked me "still"- Still!Could themself have peeped- And seen my Brain-go round- They might as wise have lodged a Bird For Treason-in the Pound- Himself has but to will And easy as a Star Abolish his Captivity- And laugh-No more have I- I tried very hard to appreciate Emily Dickinson, in fact I read this collection of her poetry twice, but most of her poetry left me cold. The vast majority of her poetry was not publish #31 They shut me up in Prose- As when a little Girl They put me in the Closet Because they liked me "still"- Still!Could themself have peeped- And seen my Brain-go round- They might as wise have lodged a Bird For Treason-in the Pound- Himself has but to will And easy as a Star Abolish his Captivity- And laugh-No more have I- I tried very hard to appreciate Emily Dickinson, in fact I read this collection of her poetry twice, but most of her poetry left me cold. The vast majority of her poetry was not published until after her death in 1886. Her poems are mainly about flowers and death. She numbered her poems rather than name them. If this review seems clinical it's because I don't sense any real emotion in her poetry. Emily was a recluse but she did have friends that she corresponded with regularly. Some say that she suffered from agoraphobia. She lived a very limited life, in my opinion. I'm afraid that all I could give her was 2.5 stars. I have no desire to read anymore of her poetry. I guess my preference runs towards the more modern. Posted January 27, 2018

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I've read a fair bit of her poetry and all I can say is that it astounds me, seduces me, challenges me, enlightens me. I can't lay claim to being any kind of expert but I love her vision, her way of seeing, her developing a highly idiosyncratic personal language that is informed by previous poetic tradition but that resolutely bends the note and pushes it forward. "Making it new" before it was cool, before they even had a name for it. I'm actually kind of hesitant to read more of her because I I've read a fair bit of her poetry and all I can say is that it astounds me, seduces me, challenges me, enlightens me. I can't lay claim to being any kind of expert but I love her vision, her way of seeing, her developing a highly idiosyncratic personal language that is informed by previous poetic tradition but that resolutely bends the note and pushes it forward. "Making it new" before it was cool, before they even had a name for it. I'm actually kind of hesitant to read more of her because I think I'm not ready yet...her power is exhausting and exhaustive...

  4. 4 out of 5

    L

    "I found the words to every thought I ever had - but One - And that - defies Me - As a Hand did try to chalk the Sun To Races - nurtured in the Dark - How would your Own - begin? Can Blaze be shown in Cochineal - Or Noon - in Mazarin?"

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barnabas Piper

    I’ve tried a few times to get into Dickinson’s poetry. I just don’t get it or connect with it at all.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    THIS is my letter to the world, That never wrote to me,— The simple news that Nature told, With tender majesty. Her message is committed To hands I cannot see; For love of her, sweet countrymen, Judge tenderly of me!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Louis

    Every time I dive into a poetry bundle, I tend to read it as you would a regular novel: from back to back. I realize now that is silly. You cannot force yourself unto poetry. Poetry has to come to you. It should seep into your life slowly, one verse at a time. That being said, Emily Dickinson is a master of her craft. I happened upon this special edition (leathery touch) and couldn't resist a purchase. I have a rather tentative affair with poetry; most of the time, especially with large-scale, ep Every time I dive into a poetry bundle, I tend to read it as you would a regular novel: from back to back. I realize now that is silly. You cannot force yourself unto poetry. Poetry has to come to you. It should seep into your life slowly, one verse at a time. That being said, Emily Dickinson is a master of her craft. I happened upon this special edition (leathery touch) and couldn't resist a purchase. I have a rather tentative affair with poetry; most of the time, especially with large-scale, epic poems, I feel as though the literary works fly right over my head. Not so with Dickinson's poetry. Rather than focusing on mythology, she takes aspects from everyday life and vividly describes it in a myriad of perspectives, often personifying natural elements. Because I can easily identify myself with its contents, they often left an emotional impact in their wake. "She went as quiet as the dew From a familiar flower. Not like the dew did she return At the accustomed hour! She dropt as softly as a star From out my summer's eve; Less skillful than Leverrier It's sorer to believe!" This collection is truly a gem. I am hoping to expand my poetical tastes this year (a.o. with Rumi, maybe Haiku poets...) but for now I will indulge in this vibrant, energetic set of poems (and probably for many years to come).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Briar's Reviews

    This is an absolutely lovely set of poetry. I would definitely recommend picking up this book if you are interested in reading works by Emily Dickinson. It was an absolute pleasure to sit down and finally read some work by this literary great! Poetry bundles are honestly one of the greatest achievements in literature. They are the type of anthologies we truly need! I'm glad someone decided to put this book together. It was a personal goal to just read something by Emily Dickinson. Sometimes I ju This is an absolutely lovely set of poetry. I would definitely recommend picking up this book if you are interested in reading works by Emily Dickinson. It was an absolute pleasure to sit down and finally read some work by this literary great! Poetry bundles are honestly one of the greatest achievements in literature. They are the type of anthologies we truly need! I'm glad someone decided to put this book together. It was a personal goal to just read something by Emily Dickinson. Sometimes I just want to sit down and read a classic without any strings attached. I'd highly recommend her work if you're interested in poetry. Five out of five stars. What a lovely collection!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Morena

    3.5 stars

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter Landau

    All the poems of Emily Dickinson have been sitting on a shelf in my living room for over a year. When we moved to our new home I put most of my books in the garage, there are too many, even for the larger house. But the living room has built-in shelves and on them I placed those books I’ve wanted to read more than the rest, at least so I felt at the time. Emily Dickinson’s poems were among them. But it’s such a long book, over 600 pages! I read the smaller ones first, wedded for no reason to the All the poems of Emily Dickinson have been sitting on a shelf in my living room for over a year. When we moved to our new home I put most of my books in the garage, there are too many, even for the larger house. But the living room has built-in shelves and on them I placed those books I’ve wanted to read more than the rest, at least so I felt at the time. Emily Dickinson’s poems were among them. But it’s such a long book, over 600 pages! I read the smaller ones first, wedded for no reason to the somewhat random selection I culled from my collection. Then I finished a book on Andrew Jackson and the great land grab from the Cherokees, which ended just about the time Dickinson started writing. It’s seemed right. At first the poems helped me slow down. I remember the old Evelyn Wood speed reading ads when I was young, the secret being skimming, and I’ve had a bad tendency to do just that ever since. But Dickinson’s rhymes that started off on course and then veered into uncharted territories made me pay close attention. I wouldn’t recommended reading her entire output at once like I did, but it does create a portrait of the artist as a pattern of words. She mentions Jews four times and rabbi once, I recall, and not always admiringly. I also learned where Woody Allen got the title for his second collection of humorous stories, WITHOUT FEATHERS. Dickinson writes about hope being the thing with feathers, or something like that. Get it? But all this is trivial. What’s more interesting is why do I continue to crack open books of poetry? I don’t understand poetry. It passes by me like a foreign language. You know how watching a Spanish soap opera if you don’t know Spanish makes the proceedings feel more dramatic, more hilarious, more surreal? That’s poetry for me. It carries me with it on its current, how I don’t know and where it takes me is also a mystery. But it’s that incomprehensibleness, at least for me, which is it’s value. Meaning is overrated. Well, meaning can be meaningful but meaning doesn’t only mean breaking something down to figure out how it works or what it represents. There’s other ways of meaning, like poetry for me. I can remove the burden of truth and convict on the grounds of sheer, weird sensation. It’s superficial but who says there’s anything under the surface that’s better?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch

    [Received April 26, 1862:] MR. HIGGINSON,--Your kindness claimed earlier gratitude, but I was ill, and write to-day from my pillow. Thank you for the surgery; it was not so painful as I supposed. I bring you others, as you ask, though they might not differ. While my thought is undressed, I can make the distinction; but when I put them in the gown, they look alike and numb. You asked how old I was? I made no verse, but one or two, until this winter, sir. I had a terror since September, I could te [Received April 26, 1862:] MR. HIGGINSON,--Your kindness claimed earlier gratitude, but I was ill, and write to-day from my pillow. Thank you for the surgery; it was not so painful as I supposed. I bring you others, as you ask, though they might not differ. While my thought is undressed, I can make the distinction; but when I put them in the gown, they look alike and numb. You asked how old I was? I made no verse, but one or two, until this winter, sir. I had a terror since September, I could tell to none; and so I sing, as the boy does by the burying ground, because I am afraid. You inquire my books. For poets, I have Keats, and Mr. and Mrs. Browning. For prose, Mr. Ruskin, Sir Thomas Browne, and the Revelations. I went to school, but in your manner of the phrase had no education. When a little girl, I had a friend who taught me Immortality; but venturing too near, himself, he never returned. Soon after my tutor died, and for several years my lexicon was my only companion. Then I found one more, but he was not contented I be his scholar, so he left the land. You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog large as myself, that my father bought me. They are better than beings because they know, but do not tell; and the noise in the pool at noon excels my piano. I have a brother and sister; my mother does not care for thought, and father, too busy with his briefs to notice what we do. He buys me many books, but begs me not to read them, because he fears they joggle the mind. They are religious, except me, and address an eclipse, every morning, whom they call their "Father." But I fear my story fatigues you. I would like to learn. Could you tell me how to grow, or is it unconveyed, like melody or witchcraft? You speak of Mr. Whitman. I never read his book, but was told that it was disgraceful. I read Miss Prescott's Circumstance, but it followed me in the dark, so I avoided her. Two editors of journals came to my father's house this winter, and asked me for my mind, and when I asked them "why" they said I was penurious, and they would use it for the world. I could not weigh myself, myself. My size felt small to me. I read your chapters in the Atlantic, and experienced honor for you. I was sure you would not reject a confiding question. Is this, sir, what you asked me to tell you? Your friend, E. DICKINSON.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    What can I say. it's Emily Dickinson...that's what I can say. beautiful, rhythmic... the occasional footnote and words written by her personal friends complete her personal letter to me, you and every reader, past and future.

  13. 5 out of 5

    allieereads

    Her words are transcendent and of you have not read Emily Dickinson’s Work, I urge you to as soon as possible!

  14. 5 out of 5

    27

    Her poetry either makes me feel sovereign or creaking inside my bones. Reading for her is really— a bewilderment.

  15. 5 out of 5

    EL Core

    I have been reading and enjoying Emily Dickinson’s poetry for three decades. Because goodreads has mashed together the reviews of all the editions of Dickinson’s poetry, this is a joint review of the three modern collected editions of her poems; that is, I review here Thomas H. Johnson’s 1960 The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (ISBN 0-316-18414-4 and 978-0-316-18414-4; 1976 paperback 0-316-18413-6 and 978-0-316-18413-7); R. W. Franklin’s 1999 The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (ISB I have been reading and enjoying Emily Dickinson’s poetry for three decades. Because goodreads has mashed together the reviews of all the editions of Dickinson’s poetry, this is a joint review of the three modern collected editions of her poems; that is, I review here Thomas H. Johnson’s 1960 The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (ISBN 0-316-18414-4 and 978-0-316-18414-4; 1976 paperback 0-316-18413-6 and 978-0-316-18413-7); R. W. Franklin’s 1999 The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition (ISBN 0-674-67624-6 and 978-0-674-67624-4; 2005 paperback 0-674-01824-9 and 978-0-674-01824-2); and, Cristanne Miller’s Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them (ISBN 0-674-73796-2 and 978-0-674-73796-9). I have read the Johnson and Miller editions straight through, Johnson in 2002 and Miller in 2016. The chief difference between Franklin’s edition and Johnson’s is the order of the poems: Franklin concluded that Johnson had dated many of the poems wrongly. Since each edition presents the poems in roughly chronological order, according to the editor’s best judgement, the order of poems in Franklin’s book differs markedly from that of Johnson’s. Also, Franklin reproduces Emily’s peculiar spelling, which Johnson regularized; and, where Emily left a poem in an unpolished state, Franklin occasionally presents a slightly different text than Johnson did — deciding to use one word rather than another, for instance. And, if Emily left two or more fairly distinct versions of the same poem, Franklin may have presented a different one than Johnson did. (For example, Johnson # 446 vs. Franklin # 346.) Miller’s edition differs even more dramatically in the order of the poems: Miller generally accepts Franklin’s dating of the poems, but she presents them in five sections based on how Emily “preserved them”. The first section presents the poems that Emily herself had assembled into little booklets called fascicles; the second section presents poems that Emily herself had saved on “unbound sheets” joined together with a brass fastener (though we don’t know whether Emily herself did the fastening); the third section presents “loose poems” that Emily had kept in her possession; the fourth section presents “poems transcribed by others” for which no manuscript in Emily’s hand has been found; finally, the fifth and last section presents "poems not retained" by the poet herself but given to others. The first three sections are by far the longest, and a majority of the poems appear in the first two sections. One wouldn’t go wrong using any of these three complete editions — Johnson, Franklin, or Miller. I think Miller’s is best, though, in three respects. First, simply because most of the poems are presented by Miller in fairly small groups (sheets, leaves) whereas the only division of poems in Johnson’s and Franklin’s books are by year, which makes for a run-on effect after reading for a while. Second, Miller also presents variant readings — alternative lines and words written by the poet herself on the manuscript pages. (Thus, we get the most significant aspects of a “variorum” edition in a reader’s edition.) Third, Miller footnotes to whom (if anyone) the poet shared each poem, and she provides some helpful annotation about possible sources, references, and allusions, in endnotes. Miller’s edition is a large and heavy book, though, which is its main drawback; also, as I write (November 2017), Johnson’s and Franklin’s editions are available as paperbacks, but Miller’s is not. Franklin provides no cross-reference to the Johnson edition — an inexcusable omission, I think. Miller’s index of first lines provides the Johnson and Franklin numbers for cross-referencing; alas, though, she provides no numbering system for the poems in her own edition, a deliberate choice that I think was imprudent. I myself have resorted to referring to the poems in Miller’s edition by page and poem number. For instance, one of my favorites, “The Life we have is very great”, is Johnson # 1162, Franklin # 1178, and Miller “number” 707.3. Johnson’s edition has one advantage over the others: it has a subject index at the back of the book, “a classification based principally on key words in the poems themselves” (p. 723). Johnson’s might also be considered the classic or standard work, since it stood alone among scholarly editions for four decades. Johnson’s edition presents 1,775 poems; Franklin’s edition presents 1,789 poems, since he and Johnson disagreed about whether a handful of writings are a single poem or different poems; and, Miller’s edition presents 1,785 poems, I think, because in the Introduction she mentions three in Franklin’s edition that she does not include for various reasons. By the way, if you are reading a book of poems by Emily Dickinson that is not edited by, nor can be traced ultimately to the work of, Thomas H. Johnson, R. W. Franklin, and/or Cristanne Miller, you are not actually reading Emily Dickinson’s poems, but some other person’s heavy-handed editing of her poems. Such other persons include Mabel Loomis Todd, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Millicent Todd Bingham, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, and Alfred Leete Hampson. (That would be any book originally published before the 1950s.) As I mentioned above, I have read straight through two of these editions. Here follow three lists of my 180 favorite Emily Dickinson poems (thus, about 1 in 10 of her poems) as presented in each edition. 1960/1976 Johnson (poem number) 67 108 125 165 173 174 178 193 208 241 254 258 280 288 294 303 318 335 341 342 345 347 359 365 371 377 380 384 386 387 389 404 405 419 429 432 435 439 441 445 449 453 465 470 478 501 505 507 510 511 516 521 533 536 540 556 561 563 564 568 569 571 573 585 596 599 605 608 613 622 623 632 642 650 656 657 661 662 668 680 686 692 697 698 701 724 725 739 749 757 760 769 771 772 780 781 789 790 791 792 793 795 809 812 813 824b 826 828 833 844 861 863 917 919 946 951 952 959 964 970 974 986 988 1013 1021 1045 1052 1053 1073 1078 1116 1126 1134 1142 1162 1163 1168 1176 1205 1207 1212 1242 1244 1251 1263 1275 1333 1339 1346 1351 1354 1355 1368 1380 1381 1383 1386 1395 1404 1420 1422 1438 1444 1448 1455 1462 1465 1472 1473 1523 1536 1540 1568 1574 1654 1704 1732 1755 1763 1765 1999/2005 Franklin (poem number) 109 112 156 171 172 175 181 187 200 204 215 260 273 278 298 314 320 339 340 344 345 348 351 355 356 372 373 374 383 387 390 401 409 428 445 448 452 465 466 483 497 501 513 515 518 519 525 528 531 533 534 535 538 541 547 550 563 569 571 573 588 591 598 605 620 626 632 639 642 649 654 657 660 667 671 674 677 679 688 689 709 715 721 724 726 727 729 731 737 740 741 747 748 749 753 760 763 768 789 796 797 800 812 825 836 847 861 870 871 882 884 901 905 906 911 913 935 948 951 962 980 982 1023 1032 1056 1057 1072 1081 1086 1090 1096 1108 1115 1138 1152 1178 1192 1197 1223 1243 1259 1266 1286 1300 1329 1341 1343 1351 1356 1359 1373 1381 1383 1384 1389 1392 1405 1413 1420 1422 1450 1457 1464 1480 1481 1484 1491 1495 1506 1523 1546 1560 1597 1605 1687 1745 1747 1773 1779 1788 2016 Miller (page.poem) 69.3 77.3 92.1 94.1 98.2 99.1 102.1 109.1 118.2 119.4 128.1 139.4 150.1 153.1 171.1 179.1 179.2 181.2 182.1 184.1 185.2 187.2 188.1 198.1 198.2 199.1 204.1 206.2 208.2 214.1 218.2 223.3 225.1 226.3 233.1 233.2 240.3 247.2 251.1 252.1 253.2 254.1 259.1 261.2 268.2 270.1 273.2 276.1 279.1 280.3 286.2 289.1 290.2 291.2 292.2 293.1 293.2 294.3 295.3 304.3 307.2 310.2 312.2 313.3 316.1 318.1 320.1 322.3 324.1 327.1 333.2 334.1 345.2 352.1 354.1 357.2 359.1 361.2 362.2 364.1 364.2 365.1 366.2 369.2 371.2 372.1 375.1 375.2 376.1 376.3 378.1 387.1 389.2 395.1 397.1 397.2 400.3 401.2 407.2 412.1 418.1 419.1 420.1 426.2 427.2 427.4 428.1 429.3 430.2 437.3 442.2 443.1 446.1 452.2 452.4 465.2 467.2 474.1 474.2 481.2 484.2 485.3 487.1 488.3 489.3 494.3 497.3 500.1 507.1 518.2 519.2 522.1 522.3 523.1 531.3 532.1 533.3 540.1 544.3 555.3 557.3 562.1 564.3 569.1 580.1 583.4 584.1 586.2 587.2 591.3 595.1 597.2 599.1 599.3 607.1 609.2 610.1 611.4 615.3 616.2 618.3 621.1 624.3 630.3 633.5 642.1 662.3 679.3 686.2 688.1 690.3 702.3 707.3 708.1 711.1 715.3 719.4 720.3 728.1 736.2 ELC 11/29/2017

  16. 5 out of 5

    C

    Emily Dickinson's poems are, in short, amazing. Her linguistic brilliance always dazzles me. Unfortunately, Johanna Brownell has done her best to destroy a great deal of what makes Dickinson's poetry so powerful and beautiful. In our time, when women authors find their book covers stamped with roses and lace in a editor's effort to make them more "marketable" to a wider audience whom s/he assumes would never pick up a woman's book that is not about domesticity and conformity, Brownell's presence Emily Dickinson's poems are, in short, amazing. Her linguistic brilliance always dazzles me. Unfortunately, Johanna Brownell has done her best to destroy a great deal of what makes Dickinson's poetry so powerful and beautiful. In our time, when women authors find their book covers stamped with roses and lace in a editor's effort to make them more "marketable" to a wider audience whom s/he assumes would never pick up a woman's book that is not about domesticity and conformity, Brownell's presence in literature is rather terrifying. I'll make sure to avoid Castle Books like the plague in the future. Brownell is not an acceptable anthologizer of poetry, nor does she at all seem professionally qualified to edit Dickinson. She normalizes Dickinson's punctuation, de-capitalizing nouns and verbs, eliminates dashes, changes the complex (and correct) slant rhymes to true rhymes, and randomly replaces words. By doing so, Brownell has done more than imply that she knows what Dickinson wants to say better than Dickinson does. She has continued - either consciously or unconsciously - the long and frustrating tradition of simplifying Dickinson so as to make her an "acceptable" version of "femininity" in poetry. It's obvious that for Brownell, Dickinson's poetry is cutesy and conventional, with no hint of linguistic experimentation or mental agility. For example, let's look at one of Dickinson's most controversial (and kick-ass) poems: I'm "wife" - I've finished that - That other state - I'm Czar - I'm "Woman" now - It's safer so - How odd the Girl's life looks Behind this soft Eclipse - I think that Earth feels so To folks in Heaven - now - This being comfort - then That other kind - was pain - But why compare? I'm "Wife"! Stop there! With the exception of two exclamation points and the question mark in the last stanza, Dickinson has no normalized punctuation. Instead, she uses her trademark dashes - perhaps to mark where the reader should pause for breath, to indicate a change in rhythm, to allude to a missing word, or to call into question the relations of the phrases on either side of the dash. A good example of this ambiguity (and why this ambiguity is integral to Dickinson's poetry) are the lines "To folks in Heaven - now -/ This being comfort - then/ That other kind." With "now" separated by the pause, it's impossible to say for sure to what words it is referring. Is it to the "folks in Heaven" or to "This being comfort"? Why is "then" not followed by a similar dash? Does it describe "comfort" as the past tense, or "That other kind" as the logical next step after comfort? If the latter (to which the grammar seems to gesture), why does the line syntactically match the previous line as if to suggest a similar relationship? As readers, we cannot know why Dickinson has made these lines so ambiguous. Dickinson was fascinated with the unknowable, the mysterious, and the hidden, and a "meaning" of a poem to her would not necessarily be something stable or finite. In this poem, the pauses in part emphasize the speaker's hesitating logic. She is not sure what Earth or Heaven "feels" like, and the boundary between "pain" and "comfort" in the context of marriage (or religion, or several other subjects) is troubled, a sensation doubled by the stare quotes around the words "'Wife'" and "'Woman.'" The speaker calls into question the definition of either of these words and, before she can reach a conclusion about them, she "Stop[s] there!" She leaves the reader in the lurch, unsure of the benefits of marriage or of the definition of his/her own sexuality in the context of the poem. If we couple the accurate version of the poem with Brownell's travesty, much of the ambiguity has been smothered, making the poem a traditional representation of a 19th-century marriage: I'M wife; I've finished that, That other state; I'm Czar, I'm woman now: It's safer so. How odd the little girl's life looks Behind this soft eclipse! I think that earth seems so To those in heaven now. This being comfort, then That other kind was pain; But why compare? I'm wife! stop there! There is no question as to whether Brownell thinks this poem is about wifedom's superiority to the "little girl's life." We now know that "those in heaven" ("folk in heaven" is just too bewildering and interesting a juxtaposition) are "now" thinking of how earth "seems" (they do not, for whatever reason, "feel" this difference anymore). What's more, "woman" and "wife" are not fluid, socially-determined, or mental states of being. One is "comfort," while the "other kind" is "pain." In Brownell's version, the reader is indeed left wondering "why compare?" Why read Dickinson at all? What's a woman writer for, anyway, if she's not delegated to the realm of the more accessible chick lit or children's literature? And what is Castle thinking, hiring a woman who is so clearly not versed in American Renaissance poetry to edit one of the most influential female poets since Sappho? Dickinson's word choice, syntax, sound, and punctuation were deliberate, thought-out, and necessary - to change them in such a fashion is to mangle the poem. Why are we still discussing this fact in 2011? I should probably provide an analysis of the misogynistic implications of their choice of editor, but I think it would make me feel ill. And then there's the fact that Brownell titles the poems and sections them off as "Love" (of whom?), "Life," "Time and Eternity," and other similarly breezy concepts. Perhaps my bitterness comes from the fact that Brownell's pastiche was my first encounter with Dickinson's poetry in middle school. Unsurprisingly, it led me to conclude that Dickinson was curiously boring and incomprehensible. I was lucky to continue studies in literature and return to Dickinson in a better edition. It infuriates me that Brownell had so flippantly cheated me of what should have been a revelatory experience. Anyone will immediately notice Dickinson's genius in a decently compiled version. I recommend Thomas H. Johnson's edition (published by Back Bay Books), which is a complete collection of Dickinson that is much more carefully edited.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jamieanna

    This was my second time reading this edition of the poems all the way through. This time I could see trends in the poems more clearly, as well as stark differences in quality and mood across Dickinson’s lifetime. Different poems jumped out at me than before, and I’m sure there are still others hidden for me to discover in the future.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth Wade

    I used to feel a deep connection with Dickinson’s work, but unfortunately I don’t any longer. Other than 1 or 2 poems, I found these to be very dull and obtuse. I’m not giving a star rating because I don’t feel like I’m the right person to critique Dickinson’s work. I’m sure it holds value for others, but I can’t say the same for myself.

  19. 4 out of 5

    leonie

    i am speechless these poems are amazing

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sonia Jarmula

    So good to read poetry that is beautiful and has something to say.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    The first time I consciously had contact with Emily Dickinson's poetry was when author and illustrator Chris Riddell posted one of his beautiful sketches on facebook decorating one of her poems. After that I knew I had to have a collection of her works. Then I discovered the World Cloud Classics and it was the perfect edition in my opinion (this being the 3rd I have now). I must say that I love poetry, always have, and although I don't always favour the kind of analysis being done in school (we al The first time I consciously had contact with Emily Dickinson's poetry was when author and illustrator Chris Riddell posted one of his beautiful sketches on facebook decorating one of her poems. After that I knew I had to have a collection of her works. Then I discovered the World Cloud Classics and it was the perfect edition in my opinion (this being the 3rd I have now). I must say that I love poetry, always have, and although I don't always favour the kind of analysis being done in school (we all had to get through that), I do see and acknowledge autobiographical elements in works. Here, as with Walt Whitman for example, it is remarkable that isolation and sickness resulted in the most fruitful creative period. What always gets to me is the tragedy of such lives and that in many cases (as with Emily Dickinson) none or only a handful of the works were being published / recognized while the author was alive, the true impact and significance of the works to be discovered only later. And now for the poems themselves: Amazing as it might be considering that the author spent almost all of her life indoors, her poems are of a wide range. Not actually knowing much of the world around her didn't stop her from writing about it (her favourite themes being nature and love, death and immortality, but also renunciation). The prose is beautiful, I have no other word for it. To me it seemed like she must have been a quiet person but very intelligent and with powerful words; everyday-words artfully crafted into profound messages. I guess that is what I love so much about her. Example: „To make a prairie it takes a clover and a bee, one clover, and a bee, And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few.” One of my teachers once said "The shorter the story, the more important every single word." and Emily Dickinson is proving that. Another example of a short poem that still has full impact: "A word is dead When it is said, Some say - I say it just Begins to live That day." Or: "I never saw a moor, I never saw the sea, Yet know I how the Heather looks And what a wave must be." I could have included all those poems as pictures but somehow enjoyed tiping them myself. Yeah, I'm weird like that. Also, I could go on like this forever since there wasn't a single poem I really disliked, but the following one shall conclude my review since you are probably all getting my point. It's the poem docarated by Chris Riddell's illustration that started it all.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I bought this beautifully bound teal volume in the New York Public Library's (building at Fifth Ave. and 42nd St.) bookstore/gift shop while on a drama club trip from Elk Lake H.S., with my kids Will and Rachel. It occurred to me that although Emily Dickinson has been a favorite poet of mine since junior high, I no longer have a copy of her work. Most of these poems I had read before, but it was delightful, and sometimes startling, to read them again. The reader changes over the years, and the I bought this beautifully bound teal volume in the New York Public Library's (building at Fifth Ave. and 42nd St.) bookstore/gift shop while on a drama club trip from Elk Lake H.S., with my kids Will and Rachel. It occurred to me that although Emily Dickinson has been a favorite poet of mine since junior high, I no longer have a copy of her work. Most of these poems I had read before, but it was delightful, and sometimes startling, to read them again. The reader changes over the years, and the poems seem changed by the reader's new response to them. I love her spare words and intuitive thinking, the leaps between lines and dashes. These poems are selected, by two of the writer's friends, from nearly 2,000 poems Emily Dickinson wrote with no intention of publication. T.W. Higginson, one of those friends, corresponded with Dickinson for many years, but only met her twice face to face. He described her as "unique and remote." In the Preface, he tells how "though curiously indifferent to all conventional rules, (she) had yet a rigorous literary standard of her own, and often altered a word many times to suit an ear which had its own tenacious fastidiousness." About this collection, he wrote: "In many cases these verses will seem to the reader like poetry torn up by the roots, with rain and dew and earth still clinging to them, giving a freshness and a fragrance not otherwise to be conveyed." If you've never read Dickinson's poetry, prepare to have your breath taken away by her vivid and capricious thoughts and images.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)

    I was lucky enough to study dear Emily for an entire semester of school. She is often remembered as a recluse but I like to think of her as secretly passionate and brilliant! If you like to solve riddles than the poems of Emily Dickinson are for you! In this edition you can read the poems in their original format. I mean would someone who is completely shut off from the world write- Wild nights - Wild nights! Were I with thee Wild nights should be Our luxury! Futile - the winds - To a Heart in port - D I was lucky enough to study dear Emily for an entire semester of school. She is often remembered as a recluse but I like to think of her as secretly passionate and brilliant! If you like to solve riddles than the poems of Emily Dickinson are for you! In this edition you can read the poems in their original format. I mean would someone who is completely shut off from the world write- Wild nights - Wild nights! Were I with thee Wild nights should be Our luxury! Futile - the winds - To a Heart in port - Done with the Compass - Done with the Chart! Rowing in Eden - Ah - the Sea! Might I but moor - tonight - In thee! Love her!

  24. 4 out of 5

    J Marie

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that I hate poetry. I really, truly hate it. Or I did, until I came across one of Emily Dickinson's poems, and subsequently devoured an entire collection of them. Emily Dickinson writes with magic- her poems are lyrical and emotional without the melodrama I'd come to associate with most poetry. They're absolutely beautiful in their simplicity.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Terra

    Emily Dickinson is the master of the written word. My favorite poems are the ones of nature. Especially the one when she angiomorphizes grass and gossiping flowers. I love to read about her envy of the freedom butterflies and how she writes of the lady of the moon.

  26. 4 out of 5

    James

    Elysium is as far as to The very nearest room, If in that room a friend await Felicity or doom. What fortitude the soul contains, That it can so endure The accent of a coming foot, The opening of a door!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Illiterate

    Dickinson paddles in shallow irony, safe besides the shores of banal faith and fortune-cookie psychology, far from the depths of modernist doubt and division.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Micha

    I am not sure of how to rate this. I have barely read any poetry and I have never understood it. I still don't understand it. These poems were still good even without my full comprehension.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebekka Hindbo

    I find it really difficult to give poetry a grade. Some of the poems I loved and some I didn't really understand but overall I enjoyed reading this collection of Emily Dickinson's poetry.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alex (PaperbackPiano)

    I'm choosing not to rate this one as I don't feel able to accurately sum up my feelings. There were some real gems in this collection and Dickinson definitely has a raw talent. However, a lot of these poems went right over my head. I wish I could have studied these in school, as I feel like I would appreciate them much more. I'm definitely glad I attempted them and will return to them in the future in the hopes of increasing my appreciation for this tortured soul.

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