ANEW FRIEND REMINDED ME THAT EMILY DICKINSON lived “right at the intersection of solitude, poetry, and gardening,” a place that sounds like a happy home to me at this life phase. So before April, which is National Poetry Month, slips away, why don’t we celebrate with poems, a book giveaway, and a look at the incredible herbarium, or volume of pressed plant specimens like the one at left, that Dickinson compiled as a teenager?
I’ve purchased two hardcover copies of “The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson” to share; details how to enter are down at the bottom of this post. My sister, Marion, who celebrates Emily’s December birthday every year with a proper party, reminds me that our parents gave this wonderful book to her in 1976, when it was published; Marion’s copy is very worn from near-daily use. Yours will be new if you are a winner!
DICKINSON (1830-1886), who sometimes used the nickname Daisy, “lived in almost total physical isolation from the outside world,” says Poets.org, which organizes National Poetry Month. It brings to mind a favorite Dickinson line of mine:
The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
A third of Dickinson’s nearly 2,000 poems take inspiration from her intimate connection to nature—50 are about bees alone!—and no wonder: Even before she wrote poems at all, she gardened alongside her mother, says Judith Farr, author of “The Gardens of Emily Dickinson.”
My sister suggests this one, Number 1035, as just right for mid-April:
Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know That you were due –-
The Frogs got Home last Week –-
Are settled, and at work –-
Birds, mostly back –-
The Clover warm and thick —
You’ll get my Letter by The seventeenth;
Reply Or better, be with me –-
As an adolescent, Emily went “botanizing” as young women of her day were allowed to do, pressing more than 400 plant specimens she collected on her walks into a herbarium. This important volume has long been in the collection of the Houghton Library at Harvard, but it was so delicate it could not easily be shown in public. These days, you can page through it online in a top-quality digital incarnation—highly recommended—or purchase a facsimile edition that is breathtakingly original-looking. In either format, you can almost see the pollen, speaking of which:
A sepal, petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer’s morn—
A flask of Dew—A Bee or two—
A Breeze—a caper in the trees—
And I’m a Rose!
Happy Poetry Month, and may your spring be abuzz with bees and blooms–and poems, perhaps, as well?
How to Win Dickinson’s Poems
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE POET who perhaps touches on the natural world in his or her work? Tell us who! That’s what to write below in the comments to enter to win one of two hardcover copies of “The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson” that I bought for this event.
Feeling shy? Just say, “I want to win,” or “Count me in” and I will consider it an entry, but if you have a poet to recommend, all the better. You know me, I’d say Yeats. I even named my latest book for him.
I’ll pick two winners at random after entries close Monday night, April 25, at midnight. Good luck!
Emily’s herbarium, in the Harvard digital archive
Emily’s herbarium for sale in facsimile
Emily on Poets.org, including selected poems
Emily as a gardener, a short bio by Judith Farr
All the plants she collected: a list