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My Emily Dickinson

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4.36 of 5 stars 4.36  ·  rating details  ·  846 ratings  ·  42 reviews
My Emily Dickinson does more than just explore Dickinson's life and poetics, although it does that expertly. It falls in line with a tradition of books of poets writing about poets who have intensely figured into their conception of poetry.

This is more personal than a biography in that it is a writer's concern with Dickinson's place in history and what she was trying to d
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Paperback, 144 pages
Published January 3rd 1995 by North Atlantic Books (first published 1985)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,611)
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Deborah Markus
Boy howdy, do I feel like an idiot.

Not one reviewer here says anything along the lines of, "Um, guys – what just happened?"

Not one reader I could find rated it lower than 3 stars – and the vast majority of reviewers give it four or five, and swoon in their reviews.

So I guess it's just me.

I'm the dork who feels as if I stumbled into someone else's drug trip when I thought I was supposed to be reading a book about a poet and her work.

I thought I was reasonably literate (for a civilian), but readi
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Paul Klinger
Reread this last week. And reread the poems and began to see why certain narratives are brought in, just a mention of their name in a poem is enough to bring in a discussion from Howe. Examples: Bronte, Daniel Boone. The eyeshine story about Daniel Boone's wife seems to correspond with something popularly held about Dickinson. I was always a little off balance about the number of historical figures that drive Howe's book. They come and go very casually, without much introduction. That's a very s ...more
Sara

I feel as though I've falling through Alice's rabbit hole into a terribly confusing conversation of one.

If I said, along with most of the other readers who have rated this book, that it was inspiring, profound or brilliant I would feel like one who viewed the Emperor's new clothes and in an attempt to appear wise, commented to my neighbor in the crowed how beautifully breath-taking the new wardrobe was. Breath-taking indeed!

When I ordered this book, I was expecting something along the lines
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Sam
Reading this book makes you aware of the primacy of association in the act of reading, which is to say an opening of doors inside the mind and the creation of connections with which you were previously unfamiliar. What Susan Howe has done here is fashion a truly scholarly work without resorting to the cliches of scholarship, while also staking out a particularly personal (thought by no means limited) interpretation of the territory Emily Dickinson's work might occupy in the mind. The fact that t ...more
Mark Smith
One of the most amazing books of literary criticism I have read. Howe weaves together several influences, including Shakespeare, Browning, James Fenimore Cooper, the Brontes, and others into an exploration of the deep forces motivating Dickinson's work. I have always loved Dickinson, but this book has given me a deeper and richer appreciation of her poetry, and opened fascinating avenues of interpretation. Howe's poetical style of writing applies a lyrical sensibility while maintaining a rigorou ...more
Jennifer Wixson
My Emily Dickinson is a deliciously dense concoction about one of America's most celebrated and mysterious poets. Written by Susan Howe, herself a poet (although I'm not familiar with her work), My Emily Dickinson is rather more an exegesis of Dickinson's celebrated poem that begins My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun - than a biography. If you don't know the meaning of the word exegesis fair warning, you're already in trouble.

Howe tosses historical, religious, theological and Transcendental refe
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Lightsey
My new light rail book. . .
But alas, I'm finding Howe's Dickinson not much more helpful than Lucie Brock-Broido's version. Each woman seems to think that the spirit of Dickinson is best served by epigrammatic enigmas--Howe's being typically declarative, Brock-Broido's descriptive. I imagine the underlying idea is that ED's concision demands a like economy in explicator and reader, but--but--in the case of a purportedly helpful book like Howe's, I think some translation might be allowed. --Parti
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Ashley
Jul 18, 2008 Ashley rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ashley by: Dorothy
I applaud Howe for transcending the (often) stiff critical constraints that limit the way we talk about poetry. To me, though, she tends to wander too much in her own prose. The result is a text that--while sometimes insightful (and often beautiful)--succeeds mainly in proliferating (this isn't the right word, but I can't think of a better one), rather than elucidating the lovely, enigmatic quality of Dickinson's work.

Don't get me wrong; I'm all for the enigmatic. After all, that's what makes D
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David Sam
Howe's short book is an illuminating take on one of my favorite poets, focusing in particular on a careful reading of "My Life Stood---a Loaded Gun." Howe does an excellent job of showing the poetic and other influences on Dickinson, especially the Brownings, Shakespeare (King Lear in particular), Fenimore Cooper, and Jonathan Edwards. Sometimes, Howe lets her own poetic rhetoric carry her away into near intelligibility, but I simply take that as her excitement and appreciation for what Dickinso ...more
Pearl
Erudite, scholarly, probably brilliant, Howe's book on Emily Dickinson's poetry is not an easy read. Howe's prose is often as dense and as fractured as is Emily's poetry. She traces how Dickinson was influenced by Jonathan Edwards' Calvinism and the Brownings and Emily Bronte and even Shakespeare. Perhaps she presses her case to hard sometimes. She provides her own explanation of Dickinson's erratic punctuation and turns it very much to Dickinson's advantage. She sees Dickinson's refusal to adap ...more
Jen
Sep 16, 2007 Jen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Poetry Lovers, Dickinson, E Coast US history, women writers & thinkers fans
One writers looks at and through another writers' work and life to see her own, to see where she stems from, what has been leagued to her, what has been noticed and what has been erased from the life of her ancestor-in-arms, or lines, as it were here. To get at language, to get at the possibility to think in other ways, to act in accordance to some needed interior calling. A constant re-looking at the work of Dickinson, the position and choices of a woman author of one time and another and the c ...more
Melissa
I loved this book. People have been telling me for years to read it. I wish I'd taken notes because parts of it just blew me away. One lovely thing was that I felt very close to Emily Dickinson, reading this -- I felt I understood something new and crucial about her that I hadn't before. Partly this comes directly from Susan Howe's putting her work and person in context, and I appreciated how she does that like a poet: juxtaposing quotes from various authors and religious speakers of the time, c ...more
Stephanie Kelley
Brilliant, but not for the faint of heart. Read if you care about Dickinson, American fiction, Victorian literature, Shakespeare, Browning (Robert or EB), or the act of reading & responding in a way that fuses the text, history, & the personal...
Ryan
Crazy, insightful, but Hard hard hard. There are honestly single sentences in this book that you could think about for decades. I watched some youtube videos of Susan Howe as well. i like how she's also up front about calling the book MY E.D. because ours really about what Emily D means to her. Th e whole book focuses on a single poem and all the influences that went into it. I give it 4stars because it cam go off on large tangents, and sometimes it feels like it jumps around just for the sake o ...more
W.B.
It's a good intellectual fitness test, criticism of this order. The only reason I gave it four stars (and this book has one of the highest ratings I've ever seen on here for a work of literary criticism) is that occasionally--not very often--I feel Howe is deliberately being gongoristic or mannered to a maddening point. Her ideas about how Dickinson's work should be presented are cogent and noble. If you must have literary criticism on your bookshelves, here's a pretty safe bet.
Kent
Yes, I shelve this under contemporary poetry, because, for me, its merit is not in the critical picture it creates of Emily Dickinson. I'd be bold as to say that is not its argument. Instead, it is a poetic picture of Susan Howe, and her personal, and possessive, reading of Dickinson's work. That we might all have this generous literary constellation on reading Dickinson, or any poet.
Nikki
If you love poetry, if you love the arts, if you are wondering why there aren't more women writers taught in schools... read this book. Susan Howe is an accomplished poet approaching Dickinson on poetic ground. Howe is fair and she is angry. She follows some of the readings Dickinson knew. She gives an extended reading of "Loaded Gun." Read this; read Howe's own poems, too.
Arielle
If there were more than 5 stars, this one would be an innumerable amount of stars. I go back to this book over and over again and each time is more brilliant than the last. Out of all of the Dickinson criticism out there (and there is a sea) this one is the only work I've found that makes me feel close to Dickinson and in her words. It is a necessary book.
Chris Schaeffer
I mean, I don't really know how I got on before reading this. A masterpiece of syncretism, tying together Dickinson, Jonathan Edwards, the Deerstalker novels, Childe Roland, Spenser, and everything else into an examination of sovereignty and the notion of the feminine subject. God, Susan Howe is just so good.
Ellie
I love love love Susan Howe and love love love Emily Dickinson to the 10th power: so my thrill in reading this book was that of a child discovering a candy cottage with no witch! Probably best read tho' by people familiar with both writers (and already loving them).
Ellie NYC
Michael
Nov 29, 2007 Michael marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Evidently, it's a bit of a truism that people who really like Whitman don't care so much for Dickinson, and vice versa.

I like Whitman, but I want to like Dickinson. I want to understand why so many people really like her poems. Maybe this book will help.
Zack
Dec 26, 2013 Zack added it
i love it. it was wonderful. if you like emily dickinson's poetry you'll love it. if you don't like emily dickinson's poetry o-my-what-a-bummer
Theresa Leone Davidson
A well written and serious study of Dickinson's work by an accomplished poet in her own right, Susan Howe. She analyzes the poetry as well as an academic and makes a good case for Emily Dickinson as a genius. Good book.
Jeff
On this site, you may scroll down to read one for whom, "if you're to have any literary criticism on your shelf, this [Howe's book on ED] is a smart bet." Ah, why not just scrap it altogether?
Russel
Hey Rza, does Susan Howe have cats? Do maggots get drunk when they feast on alcoholics? & does Susan Howe participate in illicit cat-swapping? Because God loves that shit. You hear me? God.
Allen
Dec 31, 2008 Allen added it
a book I must return to. Howe flicks away the romance and malarkey surrounding ED and attends the poetry with a good critical eye. great writer meets great writer, that is always of interest.
Benjamin
The single best book ever written on Emily Dickinson (and there is lots of competition), beautifully written, with force and imagination, by one of the greatest living American poets.
Sandy
This is surprisingly fascinating for a pretty dry account of the way Dickinson took up her influences - the stuff about puritan theology and colonial-era potboilers are fun.
Pixie
The author being a poet herself had a refreshing way of recording her impressions. There was scholarship there, but it wsn't recorded like standard literary criticism.
Dorothy
A fantastic book -- reads Dickinson so well as to see the vastness of history and landscape and literary understanding inside the "acutist lyrics."
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Susan Howe was born in 1937 in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the author of several books of poems and two volumes of criticism. Her most recent poetry collections are The Midnight (2003), Kidnapped (2002), The Europe of Trusts (2002), Pierce-Arrow (1999), Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974-1979 (1996), The Nonconformist's Memorial (1993), The Europe of Trusts: Selected Poems (1990), and Singularit ...more
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Singularities Souls of the Labadie Tract That This The Midnight The Europe of Trusts

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“Edwards’s stark presentation of the immanent consciousness of Separation enters the structure of her poems. Each word is a cipher, through its sensible sign another sign hidden. The recipient of a letter, or combination of letter and poem from Emily Dickinson, was forced much like Edwards’ listening congregation, through shock and through subtraction of the ordinary, to a new way of perceiving. Subject and object were fused at that moment, into the immediate feeling of understanding. This re-ordering of the forward process of reading is what makes her poetry and the prose of her letters among the most original writing of her century.” 1 likes
“A poem is an invocation, rebellious return to the blessedness of beginning again, wandering free in pure process of forgetting and finding.” 1 likes
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