old poet for new times


Emily Dickinson: post-9/11 poet?

I began to consider this question after returning to Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson, her kaleidoscopic, deeply researched, brilliantly written 1985 tour-de-force, which has been reissued with a new introduction by Eliot Weinberger.

Weinberger calls My Emily Dickinson a “classic” of “avant-gardist criticism,” and he invokes a lineage of poets’ criticism extending from William Carlos Williams (In the American Grain) to Charles Olson (Call Me Ishmael) to “Susan Howe herself, the most Americanist of American poets.”

Howe’s book is simultaneously a dazzling exploration of Dickinson’s power and an anatomy of the American cultural imaginary. “The vivid rhetoric of terror,” Howe writes, “was a first step in the slow process of American Democracy.” This rhetoric of terror—fueled by a double legacy of Calvinist predestinarianism and violent frontier experience—animates some of Dickinson’s best work.

more from Boston Review here.