Monday, February 1, 2010

Emily Dickinson's Letters to the World

Emily Dickinson's Letters to the WorldEmily Dickinson's Letters to the World(story and pictures by Jeanette Winter, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002)

There’s something about a small book that makes it very inviting. I don’t think it’s only a matter of being kid-sized, although that’s probably part of it. In my mind, at least, a small book promises there are treasures inside—intricate details, bits of wisdom, bite-sized portions of Beautiful Things. This little book makes good on that promise, providing a colorful and inviting introduction to Emily Dickinson’s poems.

It begins with a brief introduction to her life, told from the perspective of her sister, Lavinia. As she goes through Emily’s things after her death she notes the empty writing table, the dictionary she read “as others read a storybook”, and the white dresses she wore year-round. Then she discovers her sister’s poems. “This is my letter to the World” serves as an opening to the main body of the book, a gathering of twenty one of Emily’s poems (or parts of them, in some cases). The bright illustrations surround each poem, complimenting the language nicely. The whole book is as spare and fresh as one of her poems.

The following poem is not included in this book, but I thought it would be a nice closing:

There is no frigate like a book
     To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
     Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
     Without oppress of toll:
How frugal is the chariot
     That bears the human soul!
                                 --Emily Dickinson

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