Book Review · Reading

#SummerReadingProgram Book 4: Envelope Poems by Emily Dickinson

Rating: Five out of five stars

29082576I found this book while on a random trip to the bookstore. I entered with no intention of buying anything, and left with a treasure.

Emily Dickinson has always been my favorite poet. Her rhythm and imagery captured my soul since I read her work as a child. I have her complete collection poems as well as her letters on my bookshelf. One of my favorite memories involves touring her house in Amherst, visiting her grave, and leaving a note on her gravestone. When I first started writing poetry, I wanted to BE her – I emulated my poetry to match the format of hers.

I may have since embraced contemporary free verse, but my love for Emily Dickinson and her work will forever be a passion. So when I found Envelope Poems, I was immediately curious. Wrapped in plastic, I was unable to flip through the pages. I had no idea what I was getting into, so I let her (and editors Marta L. Werner and Jen Bervin) surprise me.

This book is both literature and art, frozen in first drafts. The small collection was selected from the larger collection of Dickinson’s envelope poems called The Gorgeous Nothings. With a photograph of her envelope scrap verse on one page and a transcription on the other to decipher her quick handwriting, this book made me feel like I rediscovered Emily Dickinson.

The poems in the envelope scraps are incomplete, and there are occasional sideways words in the margins or plus signs to indicate where more words should go. We get a glimpse of her thought process.

Not to mention, using envelopes as poetry scraps is ingenious.

I held one of those laminated envelope scraps as part of the Dickinson tour. I was ecstatic to hold it in my palm; I wish I remember which one it was. This book makes me unbelievably happy that I can read her poems that are so incomplete they sometimes feel like free verse.

I recommend this book to Emily Dickinson enthusiasts. Unless there is a passion for the writer herself, criticisms may include an excess of white space in the pages or the scans of the opposite sides of the envelope scraps. This didn’t bother me, as anything regarding Dickinson is worth it to me.

Usually, when I finish a book, it gets put away in some pile, headed to the closet or a donate or sell collection. This book will have a forever-spot on my bookshelf, next to Dickinson’s complete poems and letters.

Review also posted on Goodreads.
Photo of book cover from Goodreads.

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