Emily Dickinson in the New York Times - Art & Design

I love seeing Emily Dickinson in the morning paper. Today she is front page news in the New York Times' Art and Design section. Holland Cotter describes his first visit to The Homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts as a young man. I remember my first visit there vividly as well. I had just returned to Amherst after dropping out of college. I was finishing my senior year at the University of Massachusetts, studying with the poet Madeline DeFrees. Mostly, I was trying to figure out how to be a poet in the world, and in particular, a young woman poet who was very shy and not very confident.I remember Dickinson's bedroom most, and the quality of sunlight -- I felt no touch on the shoulder, but I did feel what it meant "to dwell in possibility." Here is where writing happens. Here is where one woman created a life where words and ideas took precedent over convention. And yes, the homemade lemonade in the back garden also added to the sweetness of the afternoon.

Here is the opening paragraph from Cotter's article:

“Growing up in New England, I’d known about her life, or the romantic version of it — how she was a recluse, how she dressed in white — for years. And I’d read many of her nearly 1,800 poems. I was a bookish, verse-writing odd-fit kid with authority issues, looking for a hero. By a hero I mean someone you admire but, more than that, identify with and somehow want to be. In Dickinson I found what I was after.” 


  1. I recently had occasion to purchase an Arion Press book of Dickinson's poetry illustrated by Kiki Smith. You might want to check it out. It's a beautiful fine art book.

    I, too, thought Cotter's article was wonderful.

  2. Loved this, and loved learning about your shyness! My sister has visited the house, and had an Emily Dickinson room in one of her own homes--the smallest in the house....

  3. Kathleen, your sister's own ED room -- you must say more! There is a Joyce Carol Oates story of a life size Emily Dickinson gnome that one couple buys at a garden shop -- the story is what it is like to have ED as a house guest ...and the couple's expectations. I heard it read by JCO so I don't know which collection it was in -- really haunting. It was "new" about four years ago.

  4. Thanks for posting this, Susan. When I was last in Amherst (visiting friends in nearby Leverett), Dickinson's home was closed (talk about poor planning!), but I did get to "dwell in possibility" from the garden and also made a visit to the graveyard where she is buried. I will have to make another trip, as I've been thinking about ED a lot after reading Gregory Orr's words about her in _Poetry As Survival_.


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