- Paperback: 770 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books; Later Printing edition (January 30, 1976)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316184136
- ISBN-13: 978-0316184137
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 321 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Paperback – January 30, 1976
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Emily Dickinson proved that brevity can be beautiful. Only now is her complete oeuvre--all 1,775 poems--available in its original form, uncorrupted by editorial revision, in one volume. Thomas H. Johnson, a longtime Dickinson scholar, arranged the poems in chronological order as far as could be ascertained (the dates for more than 100 are unknown). This organization allows a wide-angle view of Dickinson's poetic development, from the sometimes-clunky rhyme schemes of her juvenilia, including valentines she wrote in the early 1850s, to the gloomy, hell-obsessed writings from her last years. Quite a difference from requisite Dickinson entries in literary anthologies: "There's a certain Slant of light," "Wild Nights--Wild Nights!" and "I taste a liquor never brewed."
The book was compiled from Thomas H. Johnson's hard-to-find variorum from 1955. While some explanatory notes would have been helpful, it's a prodigious collection, showcasing Dickinson's intractable obsession with nature, including death. Poem 1732, which alludes to the deaths of her father and a onetime suitor, illustrates her talent:
My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.
The musicality of her punctuation and the outright elegance of her style--akin to Christina Rossetti's hymns, although not nearly so religious--rescue the poems from their occasional abstruseness. The Complete Poems is especially refreshing because Dickinson didn't write for publication; only 11 of her verses appeared in magazines during her lifetime, and she had long-resigned herself to anonymity, or a "Barefoot-Rank," as she phrased it. This is the perfect volume for readers wishing to explore the works of one of America's first poets.
From Library Journal
Complete is the keyword here as this is the only edition currently available that contains all of Dickinson's poems. The works were originally gathered by editor Johnson and published in a three-volume set in 1955. Essential for academic and public libraries.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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However, this collection edited by Thomas H. Johnson has Dickinson's original syntax and words. The difference can be stark.
Consider poem 1544. Here is the modified version:
Who has not found the heaven below
Will fail of it above.
God's residence is next to mine,
His furniture is love.
Here is the intended version:
Who has not found the Heaven -- below --
Will fail of it above --
For Angels rent the House next ours,
Wherever we remove --
To me, there is no comparison. If you agree, get the Thomas Johnson version. But be cautious--it looks like only the hardback is the intended i.e., Thomas Johnson, version.
Based on other reviews, I'm assuming the paperback edition is the more recommended *Johnson* edition and probably has all 1775 poems.
I'm assuming the recommendations are reliable, because I haven't read Dickinson since high school (40 years ago) and If I'm going to read her now, I want to start with the *real* thing. A Kindle version would be ideal, though. Since they're so short, I can read one anywhere, any time, and then think it over as I go on my way.
However, besides that, it is a wonderful guide to the work of Emily Dickinson. It starts off with a foreword, giving a little bit of information about the poet (as well as some helpful guidelines to how to read the poems). The index is also well organized, if a little cluttered; I realize that the amount of poems necessitates a smaller font when creating the the index but it does strain your eyes a bit trying to read it. Also included is a list of poems by year, which isn't totally necessary but gives a good sense of the prolific nature of Dickinson. The editorial notes section was a little unclear to me.
All in all, if you are looking for a complete text of Dickinson's work, you could do a lot worse. There is a good amount of side information that helps contextualize both the poems and their author. A helpful guide for Dickinson study.
All the poems are here, with the "spasmodic gait," irregular syntax, personal spellings, cranky capitalizations and passionate punctuation that distressed the poet's stodgy literary mentor T. W. Higginson and caused Dickinson's earliest editors to get out their red pencils.
Franklin has banished all the misguided corrections and tidying up perpetrated by the original editors and restored the true voice of the poet in all its eccentricity and power.
The typesetting of the poems is clear, unpretentious and very readable.
I found this authoritative collection a perfect complement to the scholarly biography of Emily Dickinson by Richard Sewall.