"I'm just a regular reader, you say. I read for pleasure. Why should I read the commentaries of critic Helen Vendler on the "epigrammatic, terse, abrupt, surprising, unsettling, flirtatious, savage, winsome, metaphysical, provocative, blasphemous, tragic, funny" poems of an isolated New England poet? I know, I know. First, Emily Dickinson is the sorcerer's stone. Her poetry contains, no, is, the most essential, passionate use of English and the most essential, passionate connection between the English language and nature (our nature, birds and bees nature, God's nature). So you've got to plant her somewhere in your garden, even if it's a tiny corner with no sun. Second, while commentary on poetry is rarely a good idea, Dickinson's spare use of words are just the tip of her iceberg; the waters below contain so many secrets that it truly helps to have a guide to the meter, the myth, the thread of dreams. Third, if you're going to hire a guide, you may as well have the best, and Vendler is the best. It's like, I don't know, reading Virginia Woolf on Alice Munro; it's like Brillat-Savarin on Alice Waters, it's like Leonardo da Vinci on Robert Motherwell. Life is short. Go to the top."
"Emily Dickinson was a great poet whose life has remained a mystery. The time has come to dispel the myth of a quaint and helpless creature, disappointed in love, who gave up on life. I think she was unafraid of her own passions and talent; that her brother's sexual betrayal and subsequent family feud had a profound effect on the Dickinson legend that has come down to us; and perhaps most significantly, I believe that Emily had an illness – a secret that explains much."
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