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.

Poetry Books (Part Two)

More poetry books that I recently enjoyed!:

1. Hour Book by Stefania Heim
The poems in this collection were cleverly all related to time in some way or another. It may be a poem describing a time of day, thoughts at a particular time, periods of time, and so on. The formats of the book were varying, which kept things fresh with each page turn. It was a beautiful string of ideas related to the passing of our existence. A quick read, but I found this lyrically calming and pleasant.

2. The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde
It didn’t take much for me to fall in love with Audre Lorde, and I absolutely cannot wait to read more. Maybe it’s because she’s a lesbian poet, or maybe it’s the power and emotion she evokes as a feminist. Either way, she’s rightfully known as one of the most influential and powerful contributors to black queer feminism. This collection of poems was brilliant beautiful and I’m excited for more of Audre Lorde.

3. Flawers by Billy Chapata
Being a big fan of Billy Chapata, this book did not disappoint. Written in prose, Chapata’s words make you think introspectively and validate individualism. This collection focuses on seeing flaws as flowers that can be nurtured and grown into something beautiful and unique. I appreciate his gentle and compassionate view of the world and promotion of self-love as a fundamental foundation. This is my fourth book by Billy Chapata, so soon I hope to read them all.

More to come!

Thanks for reading.