emily d. and thanking god

I think it’s pretty crazy that a definitive edition of Emily Dickinson’s poetry was so slow in forthcoming. Susan Howe has helped me understand the issues. Many of the editions and volumes available up until recently applied different and even whimsical standards to getting Dickinson’s poetry on a printed page, making what look like arbitrary decisions.

This may sound a bit extreme but I have been reading Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them edited by Christiane Miller. When Dickinson was 28 years old she seems to have bound poems in small packets the scholars call fascicles. Miller’s edition seems to be most the annotated of these and other poems that Dickinson seemed to be preserving in one way or another from then on.

For example, the first sheet in Miller’s edition Miller and R. W. Franklin another editor divide into three smaller poems. Thomas H. Jackson retains the three as one poem.

Here’s Miller’s edition.

On Some Emily Dickinson Shit (Fascicles in a Drawer 2022) - Joshua David  Whiting

On the left is a picture of the page in the fascicle. On the right is Miller’s rendition of it. By the way, I love “In the name of the Bee–/And of the Butterfly—/ And of the Breeze—Amen!

In addition to this, Dickinson provided optional words and rewrite in some of these versions. These are usually ignored in many renditions. Howe is the one who turned me on to this. She says the best way to read Dickinson is in the facsimile editions.

The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (2 Volume Set): Dickinson, Emily,  Franklin, R. W.: 9780674548282: Amazon.com: Books

This retails at $294 dollars on Amazon. Even Howe thinks this is too expensive for the average reader. But Miller’s edition is only $37.80 on Amazon. I have the library’s edition right now and have only begun examining it. Not exactly ready to own.

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds: Gordon,  Lyndall: 9780143119142: Amazon.com: Books

I’m almost done with Lyndall Gordon’s biography of the family. I quit reading it a while back because Dickinson died and there still quite a bit of book to go and I was mostly interested in her. Now, I’m interested in the whole preservation of her poems. The story is quite complicated. Dickson’s brother Austin was quite a loser. He screwed around on Susan his wife and did so with Mabel Todd, an ambitious (and admittedly brilliant) woman who had designs not only Austin but getting her hands on Dickinson’s work. This descends into a battle between Susan Dickinson and Mabel Todd.

Then Austin’s daughter by his marriage, Mattie, and the daughter of Mabel Todd, his lover, carry this spat well into the 20th century. It’s helpful to know this back story while trying to sort out Dickinson’s poetry beyond bastardizations in editions.

And it is such lovely and powerful poetry.

While I’m being intolerable I’d like to go on record how lucky and even a bit guilty I feel over how I am living my life now. My sense of well being is general. I am drilling down on understand the history of enslaved people in this country and the multitude of natives a mind boggling number of the latter and active and have fascinating stuff for me to learn.

The guilt is irrational. Never having to look back at church music is such a freeing thought. Sometimes despite that I get little twinges like when the notifications on my phone go off as they did this morning and I have a horrible little premonition that Grace is contacting me to fill in last minute. I don’t think they would ask this and I like to think I would instantly demur, but it’s a weird notion after five months of not working in church stuff.

Thank you god

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