My Emily Dickinson
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My Emily Dickinson

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4.4 of 5 stars 4.40  ·  rating details  ·  612 ratings  ·  36 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...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published January 3rd 1995 by North Atlantic Books (first published 1985)
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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
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...more
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...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
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
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
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...more
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.
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 Hamilton
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."
Molly
I received this as a gift. I enjoy literary critique and I thought this was particularly well-written.
Daneen
This book made my brain explode a little. A must-read for true Dickinson lovers. Not a picnic.
Lynn
I'm reading this for the second time. It's a wonderful engagement of one poet with another.
C
This is a scholarly book. Her explanations on Emily's Masters Letters are very interesting.
Jamie Townsend
one of the best critical works produced by an american writer in the 20th century
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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
More about Susan Howe...
Singularities (Wesleyan Poetry) Souls of the Labadie Tract The Midnight That This The Europe of Trusts

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