poetry giveaway: emily dickinson, solitary gardener

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 –-
Yours, Fly.

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!

More Emily

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

  1. Kathy says:

    I Would Love to Win this Book of Poetry!!! Spring has Always been my Favorite Time of Year with the “Awakening” of the Flowers, Trees, & Grass. Everything is “New & Fresh”…Birds are Singing…I hear the Frogs Croaking Each Morning. It’s Delightful & Peaceful. I am Thankful I can Hear These Beautiful Sounds of Nature. My Daughter & I are “Creating” an Organic Garden in Her Backyard this Year & I am SO Excited!!! Fresh Veggies, Herbs, etc…YUM!!! I Really Feel “More in Tune” with the Beauty of Nature as I get Older. I Know I Would Really APPRECIATE the Beautiful Book of Poetry. If I am not chosen, Blessings to the Recipients!!! Thank YOU!!!

  2. Pat Potash says:

    I enjoy reading all the comments by fellow poetry lovers as I never have a chance to share poetry. My sweet husband will listen politely and if I bring it up to my friends, a complete silence ensues! I can take a hint. As to choosing a favorite poet, I finally have. MANY years ago (or should I say long notes) I was a piano major. People would always ask me who my favorite composer was. I would reply, “Whoever doesn’t compose a piece of work that makes my poor small hand hit 13 keys at once!” Of course I do have a favorite composer, but almost every composer has created a piece that touches my soul. The same is true of the poets I love. Every morning I receive “The Writer’s Almanac” from NPR. It begins with a poem that could be from Shakespeare to a modern day poet. Then the poem is followed by facts of the lives of authors, poets or historical events of that particular day in history. The whole thing is narrated by Garrison Keeler. I have saved just under 400 to my computer. May my computer angels watch over my files!! About 8 years ago, I was guided to a poet named Stanley Kunitz. (1905-2006) I read his poem called, “The Layers”. Please excuse my layman’s interpretation. He writes about the changes and layers his life had gone through. (think he was 65 at the time) He takes a meaningful look back, somewhat reconciles with his past and realizes there were more changes and layers to come. The poem helped me so much with my life at that time, just like listening to a beautiful piece of music. If I may quote one line from it, “In my darkest night, when the moon was covered and I roamed through wreckage, a nimbus-clouded voice directed me: Live in the layers, not on the litter.” Poetry is so intimate. To me that spoke a symphony. He received countless recognitions such as the Pulitzer, the U.S. Poet Laureate (I believe in his 90’s) and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 1998 – just to name a few. Now for an even more fascinating part of him. He attributes his amazing seaside garden to being his greatest teacher. He has a wonderful book called, “The Braid”. It’s a book of conversations from 2002-2004 between him and Genine Lentine who is also a poet and teacher. The book reflects on his century in the garden. An excerpt from his book. (Hope I don’t get in trouble with copywrite laws here!!!) “All my life, the garden has been a great teacher in everything I cherish. As a child, I dreamed of a world that was loving, that was open to all kinds of experience, where there was no prejudice, no hatred, no fear. The garden was a world that depended on care and nourishment. And it was an interplay of forces: as much as I responded to the garden, the garden, in turn, responded to my touch, my presence”. At the age of 100, he still tended to his beloved garden. In the spring of 2003, he had a near-fatal health crisis and he attributes the thoughts of getting back to his garden that pulled him through. I think his garden was his guardian angel.
    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts of poetry.

  3. bridget sperl says:

    Robert Frost has always been a favorite – I learned “Whose woods are these” at camp fire girl camp many years agho – learned it as a song actually. Your blog is inspiring. Are you sure you are getting enough time in the garden? ;-) Would love to be a winner of the Dickenson poems but am so grateful to learn of her herbarium! Thank you for this gift!

  4. Julia says:

    All the leaves stuck out their tongues:
    I shook the softening chalk of my bones,
    Snail, snail, glister me forward,
    Bird, soft-sigh me home,
    Worm, be with me.
    This is my hard time.


  5. Jean says:

    A Pulitzer Prize winning book, “The Wild Iris”, by Louise Gluck, contains the poem by the same name and a rich feast of poems with much flower/garden metaphor.
    Thanks to your giveaway, I was compelled to dust it off and enjoy it once again.

  6. Sharon Powell says:

    May Flower

    Pink, small and punctual
    Aromatic, low,
    Covert in April,
    Candid in May ,

    Dear to the moss,
    Known by the knoll,
    Next to the robin
    In every human soul.

    Bold little beauty,
    Bedecked with thee.
    Nature forswears

    Emily Dickenson

  7. Mary Dailey says:

    My favorite is John Greenleaf Whittier and, in particular, his book Snow-Bound. Thank you for taking the time for this wonderful giveaway.

  8. Megan says:

    My wife and our 8 year old daughter Mavis try to memorize one Emily Dickinson poem each week. I love to hear the poems recited. I would love to win a copy of the Complete Poems to give to Mavis for her very own! She would be thrilled!

    1. Margaret says:

      GIVEAWAY ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED (though we will continue to enjoy any poems you wish to share!).

      I am selecting the two winners using the tool at random [dot] org, then emailing them to alert them. Good luck to all! Another book “event” with giveaways coming up very soon…I have been having fun ordering books to share next.

  9. elaine clark says:

    never knew very much about emily dickenson, so you spiked my interest and I bought a bio called , Whit Heat about her and thomas wentworth higginson. I really like leonard cohen a lot. elaine

  10. Ginger G says:

    … my favorite

    I’m nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there’s a pair of us–don’t tell!
    They’d banish us, you know.
    How dreary to be somebody!
    How public, like a frog
    To tell your name the livelong day
    To an admiring bog!

  11. Christina says:

    I know your entries are closed for the Emily D. book, but I wanted to share my experience visiting a couple homes of my favorite poet, Robert Frost. My husband and I were in Franconia, N.H. and were told of a special celebration happening at Sugar Hill, a past home of Frost. We enjoyed a tour of the now museum, walked the poerty trail, visited with a poet who was privileged to live there for the summer and write, joined the celebration to hear beautiful music and poetry and saw Frosts grandson, who looked very much like Robert Frost. What a wonderful time we had and all unexpected. We also visited his farm/ home in Derry, N.H. on another trip and enjoyed touring the home and walking the woodland trail and recognizing places that might have inspired poems to him. It was all very exciting for me.

  12. Kelly McMillen says:

    My favorite poet has to be Maya Angelo. I really can’t pick just one! She is wonderful. I have only read a few poems of Emily Dickinson, and enjoyed them. Apparently I’ve been missing out. Thank you for the opportunity.

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