Envelope Poems

Although a very prolific poet, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) published fewer than a dozen poems. Instead, she created small handmade books. In her later years, she stopped producing these, but she continued to write a great deal, and at her death she left behind many poems, drafts, and letters. It is among the makeshift and fragile manuscripts of Dickinson’s later writings that we find the envelope poems gathered here. These manuscripts on envelopes (recycled by the poet with marked New England thrift) were written with the full powers of her late, most radical period.…
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The Gorgeous Nothings

Poetry by Emily Dickinson

Edited by Jen Bervin Marta Werner

With a contribution by Susan Howe

The Gorgeous Nothings — the first full-color facsimile edition of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts ever to appear — is a deluxe edition of her late writings, presenting this crucially important, experimental late work exactly as she wrote it on scraps of envelopes. A never-before-possible glimpse into the process of one of our most important poets. The book presents all the envelope writings — 52 — reproduced life-size in full color both front and back, with an accompanying transcription to aid in the reading, allowing us to enjoy this little-known but important body of Dickinson’s writing.…
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An inspiration. Volcanic.
—Susan Howe
Defending difference took a lifelong fight, one which she was willing and able — supremely able — to wage.
—Holland Cotter, The New York Times
Dickinson’s incandescent thinking is everywhere on display, and the makeshift nature of the scraps gives us a vivid idea of what composition must have felt like for a woman whose thoughts raced far ahead of her ability to capture them.
—Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker
Here is a book almost as rare as its author, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886).
—Larry Smith, New York Journal of Books
The Gorgeous Nothings is proof that one of our most important poets can still amaze and teach us new thing about the practice of poetry.
—Hannah Star Rogers, Tupelo Quarterly
An insightful new volume, The Gorgeous Nothings, edited by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner, also provides a fascinating glimpse of Dickinson by assembling images documenting the poetry she scrawled on repurposed envelopes — envelopes that have themselves been elevated to a new sort of art.
—Jennifer Day, Chicago Tribune
We see from The Gorgeous Nothings the way [Dickinson's] art and life were not separate endeavors. Dickinson wrote poetry every time she addressed or received an envelope. Whenever there was paper around, she put quill or pencil right to it. Dickinson, master of paradox. started these un-conversations with nobody, and so many years after her death, now — in curled script, with their sweet, perfect Ms and half-formed Ys, unpublished and unseen until now — they speak to us. And they have so much yet to say.
—Brenda Shaughnessy, Los Angeles Times
The Gorgeous Nothings is one of the most ambitious, important literary feats of the year. It’s stunning, revelatory, and it functions as a key text to Dickinson’s oeuvre: seeing it demands a tectonic shift in the way we read her, brings her back to us even more extremely idiosyncratic than we could have guessed.
—Camden Avery, The Rumpus
For years, Dickinson critics have been looking for some kind of order among the manuscripts - some way to describe or theorize the ‘filing system’ that the poet left and we found. In The Gorgeous Nothings, instead, what's restored to these traces of the work is a sense of occasioned disorder. What's been preserved through time in her handwriting is the decision to occupy the page. The page becomes just as important as the writing.
—Katie Peterson, Los Angeles Review of Books
The beautiful reproduction, on the pages of The Gorgeous Nothings, of what might seem only negligible scraps of waste paper brings us closer to the restlessness of the constantly thinking poet who, in her later years, repeatedly seized her pencil and a fragment of an envelope to write about the lowliest and the most exalted states of being.
—Helen Vendler, The New Republic
Visual poets around the world will soon be mining these endlessly suggestive fragments.
—Marjorie Perloff, Times Literary Supplement
The shocks are in the words, with other, lingering, aftershocks following in the visual details of their settings. The great thing about this indispensable book is…that it gives us all of this, complete.
—Holland Cotter, The New York Times
[The Gorgeous Nothings] is a rare gift for all poetry lovers.
—Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR
This exquisitely produced book [The Gorgeous Nothings]—lovingly curated by Bervin and Werner—allows you to encounter Emily Dickinson’s ‘envelope poems’ in full-color facsimile for the first time. It’s an experience suspended between reading and looking, of toggling between those two modes of perception, and it thoroughly refreshes both.
—Ben Lerner, The New Yorker
Magnificent: the absolute perfect combination of solid scholarship and art.
—Susan Howe
This book is a testament to the lasting power of Dickinson’s work and a new insight into the way her work arose. It’s suitably gorgeous production and lyrical accompanying essays make it a treat for the eye and the mind.
The Australian
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