4 on Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson’s Poetry: Stairways of Surprise
by Charles R. Anderson
Copyright 1960
Checked out 64 times in 51 years
Last checked out 4 years ago

This critical volume has gotten extraordinary circulation and it does look to be a wonderful book. Icing on the cake for Dickinson lovers are the facsimiles of a few of her poems that’s included at the end. It’s hard to say why seeing things as they were written by the poet’s hand fascinates but it does fascinate. The cover on this book has already been taped and it needs either retaping or a new cover altogether. The circulation alone grants this book a place on the shelves (and rebinding). I look forward to reading it in full myself.

Circumference and Circumstance: Stages in the Mind and Art of Emily Dickinson
by William Robert Sherwook
Copyright 1965, 1968
Checked out 35 times in 41 years
Last checked out 7 years ago

This book appears to offer a broader interpretation of her personality and concerns than some books about Dickinson. The poetry itself is kept close at hand in this volume as illustration of the influences bearing on her mind or emotions at the time. However, there is very little consideration of her technique. Definitely keep this on the shelves. It continues to interest patrons and offers a worthwhile perspective. However, if it goes more than ten years without circulation, let it go.

A Simplified Approach to Emily Dickinson
by Robert L. Lair
Copyright 1971
Checked out 6 times in 8 years
Last checked out 4 years ago

This book is a good addition to those on Dickinson’s poetry at this library because it focuses on intense explication of specific poems, examining rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration. This section of “Poem-by-Poem Analysis” is the main portion of the book. By contrast, other books on the shelves are more interested in Emily herself rather than her poetry, even if they reference her poetry. This book is about the poetry and the techniques Dickinson employed that resulted in poems that continue to give people pleasure and insight over 100 years later. Definitely keep this on the shelf as long as it holds up.

Emily Dickinson
edited by Harold Bloom
Copyright 2003
Checked out 6 times in 8 years
Last checked out 5 years ago

This contemporary look at Dickinson has gotten less attention than the other timeworn books above, perhaps because it is less comprehensive. However, it is still very valuable because it offers a variety of more recent perspectives. It begins with a 40+ page biography and then provides three critical essays by different writers/scholars: Sandra McChesney, Adrienne Rich, and Allen Tate. Note that this is the only volume I’ve come across in this library in which women are commenting on Dickinson’s poetry. Definitely keep this on the shelves.

These four books provide a well-rounded look at both Dickinson and her poetry for this library.


About jppoetryreader

Poetry reviewer and poetry consultant for libraries
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