The Love of Emily Dickinson

I read the complete collection of Emily Dickinson’s poems as well as her letters to her sister-in-law, Sue – all while re-watching the AppleTV show, “Dickinson”. I was able to finish in line with the end of the third and final season, meaning that it takes about 15 hours to read through all of Emily’s letters and poems. I absolutely loved the show, specifically its wittiness and the juxtaposition of modern music with the vintage visuals. Reading her work of course gave me new insight, which made the show even more enjoyable.

The poems were edited by Cristianne Miller to be as Emily preserved them, which included 40 bounded collections that were called fascicles, as well as hundreds of loose and unbound poems. Emily was often known for her odd use of punctuation, indentation, and capitalizations, as well as her vivid imagery and philosophical themes. Her poetry is of course beautiful, but you need to know more about Emily to really understand the meaning behind her words.  

Emily was a misunderstood lesbian, or more accurately was likely bisexual, and was in love with her best friend, Susan. Both Emily and her brother, Austin, were interested in Sue, and of course this was the 1870’s so Sue and Austin got married. Despite their marriage, Emily and Sue remained close and their relationship had a timeline completely separate from their relationships with men.

In addition to her preserved poetry, Emily’s letters written to Sue were also saved. Many of Sue’s responses were not kept, however, due to a tradition from that time period to burn or get rid of certain items upon one’s death. The letters saved were very intimate and loving and proved that the women were romantically involved all throughout their lives.

What’s unfortunate is that their relationship was not properly portrayed after Emily’s death due to several reasons. Austin went on to have a very public affair after Emily’s death with a women named Mabel Loomis Todd, which deeply upset Sue. Sue busied herself with editing Emily’s poems, but was taking a long time and Emily’s sister Lavinia asked for the collection back. Sue handed them over, and Lavinia turned the collection over to Mabel Loomis Todd to edit. Mabel erased much of the connection to Sue in Emily’s writing, including ripping off pieces of letters to Sue to have Emily’s words appear as standalone poems rather than love letters.

For this reason, I enjoyed reading the book Open Me Carefully, which is the intimate collection of letters that Emily sent Sue (edited by Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith). This included information about which poems had signatures and pieces torn off as well as background information on their relationship during different periods of their lives.

Their relationship did have rocky points, but remained a prominent part of both of their lives until their deaths. The most distance between them came after Sue and Austin’s marriage, when Sue became quite the socialite. She was hosting lavish parties with famous and up and coming literary icons, which would be the equivalent of Sue throwing celebrity parties. Basically, Sue became an 1800’s social influencer. Emily did attend some parties, but their correspondence decreased in frequency during this time period.

They never stayed apart for long though and Susan was with Emily upon her death. Sue even dressed her for burial, made the funeral arrangements, and wrote her a loving obituary that was published in the Springfield Republican. The rest of Sue’s life was left keeping a memory of Emily, which is a painfully beautiful end to a tragically poetic love story.

So here is to the immense love of Emily Dickinson and Sue Huntington Gilbert Dickinson. ♥

Thanks for reading.

Diverse Love Story Books

Enough of the standard, predictable, rom-com, overplayed, typical love story. I want queer couples, diverse couples, and stories that break the mold. So, here are 3 books I read that do just that:

1. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
This has quickly become one of my all time favorite books ever ever ever ever ever. It’s written so beautifully, so poetically and lyrically, which was a lovely after I had just finished some poetry books and was coming back to novels. As a reader, you really get a unique perspective into the characters’ thought paths and experiences. The rhythm of these words was so incredibly special and unusual in the best way. The ups and downs of this story, however big or small, tugged at my heart strings in a way I was not expecting. It also gave me a unique perspective on the anxieties that black people face in this America. The heartbreak that the main character feels after an unjust tragedy strikes yet again is prominent and impactful, and the story is important, significant, and realistic. I’m seriously still obsessed with the way this was written – I’ve never read anything like it and I already can’t wait to read it again. Update: I read it again, and it was still just as wonderful as the first time.

2. Written In The Stars by Alexandra Bellefleur
I will say this – this story is very much a typical romantic comedy. It was predictable, cheesy, and hardly really broke the mold at all. The only way that this differs from every other rom-com ever created – the story is about a lesbian couple. Within 10 pages into the book, I correctly predicted the entire plotlines and ending of the book. However, I still couldn’t stop reading and I had to see for myself. Yes, it all played out the way I was expecting it to – but hey, it was lesbians, so I had to finish the story. I will say that the characters are interesting, and even us queer women deserve to read cheesy romantic comedies that we can relate to and dream about. I would recommend this book to young adults who are looking for that typical silly love story, but queer.

3. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
When I first heard that this was a lesbian subway time-travel love story, I have to admit that I was weary. However, this ended up being super enjoyable and not as predictable as I had imagined. It was written very well, there were connections I was not expecting, and it was queer queer queer queer QUEER. It felt super relatable and familiar… besides the sci-fi aspects of course. It’s all done in a way that I really loved reading, and I appreciated how much diversity and representation that was included. I’d honestly recommend this to anybody who is open to a love story with a small sci-fi twist – and even if you aren’t at first, still consider giving this a try!

If I choose to continue my endeavors with reading love stories, I’d definitely like to keep it diverse.

Thanks for reading!