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Open Me Carefully
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About the Author

Emily Dickinson is the great and iconic American poet. She lived in Amherst, MA and was largely unrecognized during her lifetime. Her poems are as original in form and subject today as when she wrote them. Ellen Louise Hart is the author of articles on editing Emily Dickinson that have appeared in The Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin, Emily Dickinson Journal, An Emily Dickinson Encyclopedia, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, The Women's Review of Books, and The Heath Anthology of American Literature. She teaches writing and literature at Portland Community College in Oregon. Martha Nell Smith is Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, Professor of English, and Founding Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland. Her numerous print publications include five singly and coauthored books, including Emily Dickinson, A User's Guide, Companion to Emily Dickinson, and Rowing in Eden.

Reviews

This intriguing new collection of letters and poems, compiled by two noted Dickinson scholars, reveals a little-known side of one of America's best-loved poets. Documenting a 36-year correspondence between Emily Dickinson and her sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Dickinson, the book does much to negate the popular image of Emily as a mysterious, lonely recluse. In writing filled with warmth, humor, playfulness, and joy, Emily shows her profound attachment to Susan as a friend and as an object of literary inspiration. The romantic and often erotically charged writings, censored or misinterpreted in earlier collections, will surprise many readers. Building upon standard works such as Thomas Johnson's Letters of Emily Dickinson (1958), Hart and Smith revise earlier scholarship and provide fresh commentary. Published by a highly selective feminist press that typically produces only two titles per year, this book is an important acquisition for academic and larger public libraries.‘Ellen Sullivan, Ferguson Lib., Stamford, CT

"Emily Dickinson's surviving letters to Susan, which began ardently a few years before Susan's marriage and continued almost until the poet's death in 1886, outnumber her letters to anyone else. After an examination of these cryptic messages, Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith have emerged up in arms for Susan. In compiling Open Me Carefully (which includes more than 20 poems and one letter not previously connected with Susan), they aim to show that the women enjoyed a long, close relationship, one whose workaday exchange of 'letter-poems' (Susan's term) contributed to 'the texture of their daily life.' Even more urgent, however, is their intent to champion Susan as Dickinson's 'primary reader'; the person they believe exerted the most significant, sustaining influence on Dickinson's poetic and erotic sensibility. With spare commentary, Smith and Hart wisely let these letters speak for themselves. Most important, unlike previous editors who altered line breaks to fit their sense of what is poetry or prose, Hart and Smith offer faithful reproductions of the letters' genre-defying form as the words unravel spectacularly down the original page. All the better to appreciate, in a fresh and overdue context, that poetic voice we have come to know; iridescent, puzzling, explosive."--The New York Times Book Review

"Emily Dickinson's surviving letters to Susan, which began ardently a few years before Susan's marriage and continued almost until the poet's death in 1886, outnumber her letters to anyone else. After an examination of these cryptic messages, Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith have emerged up in arms for Susan. In compiling Open Me Carefully (which includes more than 20 poems and one letter not previously connected with Susan), they aim to show that the women enjoyed a long, close relationship, one whose workaday exchange of 'letter-poems' (Susan's term) contributed to 'the texture of their daily life.' Even more urgent, however, is their intent to champion Susan as Dickinson's 'primary reader'; the person they believe exerted the most significant, sustaining influence on Dickinson's poetic and erotic sensibility. With spare commentary, Smith and Hart wisely let these letters speak for themselves. Most important, unlike previous editors who altered line breaks to fit their sense of what is poetry or prose, Hart and Smith offer faithful reproductions of the letters' genre-defying form as the words unravel spectacularly down the original page. All the better to appreciate, in a fresh and overdue context, that poetic voice we have come to know; iridescent, puzzling, explosive."--The New York Times Book Review "In writing filled with warmth, humor, playfulness, and joy, Emily Dickinson shows her profound attachment to Susan as a friend and an object of literary inspiration. The romantic and often romantically charged writings, censored or misinterpreted in earlier collections, will surprise many readers. Building upon standard works such as Thomas Johnson's Letters of Emily Dickinson (1958), Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith revise earlier scholarship and provide fresh commentary. Published by Paris Press, a highly selective feminist press that typically produces only two titles per year, this book is an important acquisition for academic and larger public libraries."--Library Journal

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