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« On the Past Denied (by Jennifer Michael Hecht) | Main | Vaginal perplexity 1: trolling for a scientific method along the Coulée verte [by Tracy Danison] »

May 02, 2016


Excellent, insightful piece. A reminder of unchallenged assumptions made about the way people live or have lived, and how there is often so much more to the story.

Thanks for your kind comment, Amy.

How curious that Epstein sees Dickinson's solitude as "sad." Perhaps. Who knows but her? But the letters and poems reveal a vitality next to which most of us pale. In fact, Dickinson's imaginative and intellectual life was so generative, so incandescent, that her words ignite without ceasing generation after generation. She meets them not corporeally but mind to mind. This fellowship strikes me as no less valuable or social than most face-to-face friendships. As hermit, as anchorite, she comes across as anything but depressed. And those who actually knew her may have regarded her as idiosyncratic but not emotionally unsatisfied. I enjoyed the rest of the piece, but am a little mystified by his appraisal of E.D.

Thanks for your comment. I certainly endorse your observation "Who knows but her?" And you make some good points about her interior life. I find evidence of my view that her solitude was sad in her poems. The one that comes to mind as I sit here is "Success is Counted Sweetest." In the poem, the speaker has lost a race and feels "defeated" and "dying" hearing the "strains of triumph" accorded the victor. This strikes me as a clear expression of Dickinson's profound sadness at not having what she knew to be her vast poetic gifts recognized. Anyway, that's an example of why I think she found her solitude, her inability to fit into poetic society, sad.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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