New Poems of Emily Dickinson

New Poems of Emily Dickinson

New Poems of Emily Dickinson

New Poems of Emily Dickinson


For most of her life Emily Dickinson regularly embedded poems, disguised as prose, in her lively and thoughtful letters. Although many critics have commented on the poetic quality of Dickinson's letters, William Shurr is the first to draw fully developed poems from them. In this remarkable volume, he presents nearly 500 new poems that he and his associates excavated from her correspondence, thereby expanding the canon of Dickinson's known poems by almost one-third and making a remarkable addition to the study of American literature.

Here are new riddles and epigrams, as well as longer lyrics that have never been seen as poems before. While Shurr has reformatted passages from the letters as poetry, a practice Dickinson herself occasionally followed, no words, punctuation, or spellings have been changed. Shurr points out that these new verses have much in common with Dickinson's well-known poems: they have her typical punctuation (especially the characteristic dashes and capitalizations); they use her preferred hymn or ballad meters; and they continue her search for new and unusual rhymes. Most of all, these poems continue Dickinson's remarkable experiments in extending the boundaries of poetry and human sensibility.


I wish to express my gratitude to the National Endowment for the Humanities, which awarded me funds for a project called "New Methods of Editing the Letters of Emily Dickinson." The John C. Hodges Fund of the University of Tennessee English Department has also provided help for the development of this project.

Thanks also to my two assistants. We have all studied the letters, and each of us has found poems that the others missed. All of us have participated in the research, the editorial decisions, and the many other chores that go into the making of a book. Thanks to my friends Suzanne Juhasz, Emory Elliott, and Everett Emerson for their support and encouragement of this work. Caroline Maun has also provided a careful reading and many good suggestions. And thanks finally to Carol Rigsby, who aided greatly in preparing the final version of the manuscript.

All of the new poems printed in this book are taken from Thomas H. Johnson three-volume work, The Letters of Emily Dickinson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press, 1955).

Each poem deemed to be a permanent addition to the Dickinson canon is given its own number on the far left. These numbers are for identification only and do not indicate chronological order. The source of each poem is noted in the text or in parentheses at the end by the Johnson number of the letter from which it was taken; this number will enable the reader to establish the chronological position of the work in the Dickinson canon and also to search out the context. Throughout, I have followed Johnson's rendition of Dickinson's spelling and punctuation.

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