Letters to the world – “Selected Poems & Letters of Emily Dickinson” edited by Robert N. Linscott
Though I’m admittedly not much for poetry, I occasionally go through mini-phases where I feel like I need to learn more about the art form in order to be a better and more complete reader of the world. Emily Dickinson, to me, is always a safe starting point. I find her poems to be clever, amusing, and deceptively simple when in fact they’re addressing all sorts of issues from love to death.
“Selected Poems & Letters of Emily Dickinson” is a really sweet collection of the poet’s body of work. From her 1,775 poems, many are selected, and combined together with a bunch of letters she wrote to people in her life. The famous hermit lived through her words and wrote to people all over – from relatives to teachers to other writers. In addition, there’s the recollection of Thomas Wentworth Higgins (a clergyman) of his correspondence with Ms. Dickinson through letters over a series of years.
If I had a squabble, it would be that Ms. Dickinson notoriously used dashes in her poems in place of other punctuation, and the editor of this book has removed them in favor of more correct and common punctuation. (Though trying to tie her down with commas and semi-colons doesn’t stop her obvious brilliance.)
Punctuation aside, this 1959 collection would be a great introduction to Dickinson – and it’s going to be a great addition to my bookcase. Granted, the rest of the poetry on my shelf is slim. (Literally, there’s a Whitman collection and a book called “The Sounds of Silence”. That’s it.)
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.