The Gift of Screws: The Poetic Strategies of Emily Dickinson

The Gift of Screws: The Poetic Strategies of Emily Dickinson

The Gift of Screws: The Poetic Strategies of Emily Dickinson

The Gift of Screws: The Poetic Strategies of Emily Dickinson

Synopsis

Emily Dickinson is well-known as a nineteenth-century poetic genius, but by investigating the circumstances surrounding the life and work of the reclusive poet, Ward reveals astonishing aspects of her character.

Excerpt

As the scholarly investigation of Emily Dickinson's poetry over the past sixty years began to reveal the astonishing genius of a nineteenth century recluse and eccentric, interest centered on the personal determinants that some have felt must somehow explain the phenomenon. One might reason that the poetry itself demands investigation in this direction, for even after innumerable readings, the poems still create new realizations and awaken perceptions of an ineffable nature. It would seem only natural, perhaps, that the woman responsible for evoking this response from us should be the subject of intense interest and wonder. But the curious circumstances surrounding the creation of these poems have, to some, loomed larger than the poetry itself. If the purpose of criticism is to illuminate the nature of a work of art, then biographical evidence so directed or applied is a valid function. If, however, the creator becomes more the focus of interest than the created, the purpose of literary criticism is not well served.

Fortunately, not all biographical investigation has gone astray in the case of Emily Dickinson. For example, her self- imposed isolation, it was thought at first, must surely have been an act of despair, a morbid need to suffer alone, but that view has changed, and Emily Dickinson's withdrawal from society is now regarded as not so complete as was at first thought nor motivated by some unhappy incident or antisocial feeling. What seems more likely is that she deliberately set limitations on the scope of her social life in order to achieve the ultimate artistic communion, the exploring of an inner world. And the exploration of that inner world must have been for her paradise enow.

But great poetry makes demands for itself. It is not . . .

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