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My Emily Dickinson Paperback – January 3, 1995

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Editorial Reviews


"Howe's ear almost becomes Dickinson's, hearing each musical phrase and its hesitancy as fierce intention and mindful resistance. Her reading is alarming, and thrilling, in its implications for academic scholarship. It will change our perceptions of Dickinson's language utterly."
-Kathleen Fraser, Editor, HOW(ever)

"My Emily Dickinson is one of our seminal works of creative scholarship. It bears much the same relationship to a consciousness of American language and speech as Williams' In the American Grain did in its own time. Howe's book can be viewed as a tracing of a spiritual impulse from Jonathan Edwards through Emily Dickinson to the present. It is at once a deeply insightful feminist document and a reaction against superficial feminist readings of Dickinson's work."
-Michael Palmer, author of First Figure

About the Author

Susan Howe is the author of numerous books of poetry, including The Western Borders, Pythagorean Silence, and Defenestration of Prague. She was the recipient of the American Books Award for Poetry from the Before Columbus Foundation in 1981. Born in Boston, Howe now lives with her husband and son in Guilford, Connecticut; she has a grown daughter who is a painter in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books; First Edition edition (January 3, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0938190520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0938190523
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,104,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Tami Landers on June 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a serious and personal literary study of Dickinson's work by a scholar and fellow poet who appreciates both the art and the attitude of one of her American literary forebears.
Howe points out how Dickinson's poetry has been overlooked in light of her character and biography. It seems that in the 19th century, it was remarkable for a woman to be a poet at all, let alone write original, rebellious, and quite modern poetry. Hence, the work itself, though enjoyed by schoolchildren all over America, has been little understood.
Delving into Dickinson's reading lists, her notes and letters, and analyzing a few poems, Howe explores the workings of an intricate mind. She uncovers connections between Dickinson and the Brownings, the Brontes, and James Fenimore Cooper, and she shows how seemingly submissive, soft spoken poetic lines are actually rebellious and even at times angry. What Howe does not do is confuse the image of "The Belle of Amhearst" with the vital workings of the mind of this remarkable woman.
This book is an enjoyable read filled with Howe's admiration for her artistic predecessor and written in straightforward language, not literary jargon--a tribute from one poet to another. For anyone who enjoys Emily Dickinson's poetry, it is not to be missed.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By William E. Adams on October 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have been pretty much obsessed with Emily Dickinson since 1980, and have enjoyed reading many treatments of her life and her poems, while enduring many other books about her. She is quite a mystery, and shall always remain so, becoming the kind of woman and poet that each generation seems to need. I did not like this author's prose style, which seemed to me to have many sentence fragments and many abrupt transitions which did not seem logical. However, it does contain one of the best meditations on Emily's literary and theological influences, including the preacher Jonathan Edwards, and the Brownings, and the Brontes, and Shakespeare. For that reason, it is worth reading if you care about the Belle of Amherst at all. I found myself drawn to her poetry from high school on, but over the decades, becoming much more fascinated with her life choices and experiences. We will never know for sure how many poems are autobiographical, how many actually describe her take on the experiences of her small but intense social circle, and how many are pure fiction. What an impact she has made on the literary world, by living the life of a fairly affluent New England spinster who did not get out much. That is endlessly fascinating to me. Unfortunately it is not the thrust of this volume. My recommendation is to start with Richard Sewell's huge biography of Emily from the 1970's. It covers the life AND the poetry in a reasonable and accessible manner. Some think Emily a secular nun, some think her a deeply closeted lesbian and/or incest victim, some feel she had many love affairs but was discrete about them. Some think her insane, some believe her to be the sanest of us all. Some find her an early feminist, and others see her as an oppressed woman.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Dick on March 17, 2014
Format: Paperback
There are few critical books that I find myself returning to over and over like I do this one. Susan Howe opens up her reading of Dickinson to us. It in fact is almost like Howe allows us to slip into the room and listen to the conversation between these two poets, SH herself and E Dickinson. Here, Howe is reflecting on the nature of writing, history, self and other. The reading of Dickinson's work is open and opening, thus My Emily Dickinson is a text that is alive and inviting further reflection, reaction and study by the new and newer generations of Dickinson scholars. Beautifully and attentively written, this is a treasure.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By godotnut on July 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have to say, the epic seriousness with which "A. Wilky" takes a comment by someone on Amazon is hilarious. Wilky's comment is a telling example of a scholarly writer reading too much into someone--analytic overkill of seemingly off the cuff remarks. The original poster clarified that he finds Howe's writing style too fragmented, and Wilky pointed out the obvious, which is that this is intentional in Howe and reflects her enactment of her conception of Emily D (except it takes Wilky several hundred words to say this, and he implies along the way that the poster is a sexist fuddy duddy). But so what if random guy on Amazon didn't grasp this aspect of My Emily Dickinson? Is it really worth such lengthy pontificating? Methinks someone is procrastinating their current writing project by dithering too much in online forums.

Oh and My Emily Dickinson is the most influential writing on Dickinson since at least WWII, even if you are averse to Howe's theoretically inflected academic language poetry kind of style (er, excuse me, "intellectual project"). This book has fundamentally changed the way scholars and poets think of Dickinson. It's an absolute must read if you love ED's writing.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Megan A. Burns on April 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book 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 in 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 do with her poetry. Howe does a wonderful job of trying to get into the poems through playing with language. It's a place to meet Dickinson at as she was a lover of games and words.
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