Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Emily Dickinson's Scraps

Rebecca Onion at Slate's The Vault passes along this collection of Emily Dickinson's papers digitized and hosted at Amherst College.  Taken together they give the impression of a mind that is ceaselessly composing, but not always organized; many of these are scraps of poems written of scraps of paper, even old envelopes like this draft of "A great Hope fell":

It's fascinating to see Dickinson in the act of composition here: She gives two options for the last word of the second line, reading either "You heard no noise," or "You heard no crash."  The former is the one I've seen in print, though I don't know to what extent Dickinson composed final drafts and what she did with them.  Similarly, the third line may read either "The Ruin" or "the damage was within," or a third word I'm not sure I can read--it looks like "horse," but that doesn't make much sense.

You can access the whole collection here, though I will tell you nothing in it approaches the sheer simple poetry of this poem, "Kate's Doughnuts":

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