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Emily Dickinson: Lives of a Poet

Emily Dickinson: Lives of a Poet

by Christopher E. G. Benfey

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
This book is intended to mark the centennial of the poet's death, and it is almost grimly suited to that task; rarely have Dickinson's life and poems been so trimly boxed and fastidiously presented. An essay by Benfey and a rambling prose poem by Jay Leyda introduce 34 of Dickinson's own poems; some familiar photos, most of which appear in Richard Sewall's definitive biography, and a good deal of white space fill out the volume. Benfey's short biography and reception study has the defects of its virtues: it is so sensibly moderate, so skeptical of myths and hypotheses, that it leaves untouched the deep sources of Dickinson's agonies and exultations, of her vertiginously complex and passionate language. This book is for the tepid of taste, not the ``Inebriate of Air.'' Martin Bickman, English Dept., Univ. of Colorado, Boulder
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
YA This well-presented and readable addition to the books on Emily Dickinson debunks the previously accepted view of Emily's father ``as a tyrannical Puritan who blighted his daughter's life'' and the ``sentimentalized view of her that is largely traceable to her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi.'' In addition it wisely points out that ``a subtle sexism has focused our attention on the men in Dickinson's life'' and notes that ``we have hardly taken the same care with the suspected lovers of Walt Whitman, Henry James or Edgar Allan Poe.'' Rather than retracing many of the Dickinson myths, Benfey laces ample photographs and the poet's own words together with information about the influences that nature, her family, and the Civil War had upon her and her writing. Not a biography of the woman as much as a study of the poet, this introduction to her will be enjoyed by students looking to discover the reason behind Dickinson's style and words. It will not be useful for research, however, since the only index is by first line of her poetry. Even without this research capability, it will probably get more use than the scholarly but dry Emily Dickinson (Pantheon, 1986) by Helen McNeil, which does have an extensive index. Carolyn Praytor Boyd, Episcopal High School, Bellaire

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Braziller, George Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.70(w) x 9.60(h) x 0.80(d)

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