Friday, May 21, 2010

Outside the range of normality

I meant to note this great short, personal, article about Emily Dickinson by Holland Carter in last Tuesday’s (May 11) New York Times.

Just a couple of quotes to whet your appetite:

I ... discovered there a dynamic I had sensed but hadn’t been able to name: fluidity of gender. She spoke as a woman, a man, a little girl, a little boy, a lover active and passive. Suddenly she was throwing out a power-of-example lifeline. Not only was she an outsider, she was also, so it seemed, an outlaw, on the margins, where I felt I was too.
and

She was well aware that she was putting herself outside the range of normality. But I never had the impression that she yearned to be inside it. Just the opposite. When once asked whether she didn’t miss going out, seeing friends, living the life everyone else lived, she answered, “I never thought of conceiving that I could ever have the slightest approach to such a want in all future time.” Then she added, “I feel that I have not expressed myself strongly enough.”
I’ve mentioned before that my poetry reading is as close as I get to wrestling, and that I find Dickinson especially difficult. Carter has made me dig out my little volume and have another go, with a more open mind.

A wonderful piece.

5 comments:

Martin Benedict O'Brien II said...

Mark,
Just went upstairs and dug out my little volume on Emily: "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?
It took me less than a minute.
Although occasionally obscure, to me she writes as large as the Bible.
She's so great. Thanks for giving her honorable mention in your blog.
Regards,
Martin

SeabeeMom said...

Would love a suggestion on what book to read to get a fair first impression of Emily Dickinson's life...your blog and the NYT article got me curious!!! Thanks!!

Mark Alvarez said...

Occasionally obscure, Marty? You're a better man than I am!

SM: The Johnson "Complete Poems" is the basic compendium. Everything, chronologically presented. Definitely not "Emily's Greatest Hits."

I must admit I've never read an ED bio, so I have no recommendation beyond asking your nearest English prof or excellent librarian.

(I would like to have Wendy Martin's "Cambridge Companion to Emily Dickinson," a set of essays by a dozen or so Dickinson scholars. Probably not best for a first impression, though.)

Cheers.

Myretta said...

I like Cynthia Griffin Wolff's Emily Dickinson, which combines biography and poetry. I think it might be a good place to start.

Mark Alvarez said...

Thanks, Myretta. I'll follow up on this. (You would think advice might occasionally go in the other direction.)