Friday, December 10, 2010

Echoing Emily

Day 305 of the "What are you reading, and why? project, and today is Emily Dickinson's birthday and also Human Rights Day, so Sarah and I, and Babbitt's Books, are celebrating this in the store blog by offering up our books by or about Eleanor Roosevelt, who led an international committee in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Emily Dickinson, who wrote a jillion poems and sewed them up in little packets and stored them in a chest in her closet.

I celebrated in advance by making some collage bookmarks, each with the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem glued somewhere into the collage.

Dave is celebrating in his blog today (Via Negativa in the blogroll) by airing some podcasts of various people reading poems by Emily Dickinson.  If I can master my technology challenge, or get someone to help me, I will send along a recording, too!  Here, by the way, is his Woodrat Podcast for Thanksgiving, as I am thankful for Human Rights Day!  (Which I will celebrate by writing some letters for Amnesty International.)

I suggested to Dave that he contact Kelli Russell Agodon, who wrote the book Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room, for a recording, and I am further celebrating by returning to my reading of that book.  (I read around in it when it first arrived so I wouldn't just race through, and then last night I gorged on it.  I must have been really hungry for poetry after reading Loving Frank.  I promise I will re-read more slowly and carefully, and chew each bite 35 times, Amanda Wingfield...and Helen Stevenson.  OK, enough of that.)  Anyhoo....

I am delighted that the Emily Dickinson Room is a real place not just in Amherst, at Emily's family home, called the Homestead, but in Oregon, in the Sylvia Beach Hotel!

Kelli's poems are also delightful--clever, wise, funny, and oh, my God, the anagram poems are amazing!  Here is a snippet from "Xanax Prescription Goes Unfulfilled."

Let me trust my emotions
          because even in my nuttiest rooms,

I find safety in words.  I satisfy wonder,
to alphabetize is to baptize and heal.

And then, utterly resisting "Dr. Xanax," she insists:

Let me get through this
without you.
Let me

echo poems

as with that
as with that

comes hope.

These poems treat the huge subjects of poetry--God, love, death--as did Emily's, and echo and allude to other great artists.  She explores the letter form, as the book's title promises, in such poems as "Letter to Vincent Van Gogh, Who Loved Silence" and "Letter to Walt Whitman, Who Painted Butterflies."  And, as I love coincidence, I just have to mention that some of my bookmark collages included cardboard butterflies, which feature in Kelli's Whitman poem, that starts off with this newsy epigraph:  In 1942, Whitman's handmade cardboard butterfly disappeared from the Library of Congress.  It was found in a New York attic in 1995.

Of course, Emily Dickinson loved butterflies, too!

And, of course, my cardboard butterflies came from a Kleenex box.


Kelli Russell Agodon - Book of Kells said...

Kathleen, thanks for the fantastic write-up! And I loved your early celebration of collage bookmarks. (loved that you had cardboard butterflies too!).

I am so glad you enjoyed the book and I enjoyed reading Emily's poems for her bday. And absolute treat to speak the words she wrote so long ago.

Hannah Stephenson said...

I must get Kelli's book. I keep meaning to.

Kleenex brand butterflies are the loveliest and most absorbent.

Thank you for your awesome comment today--I appreciate it!

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Collage bookmarks--what a great idea! I'd love to see pictures (should you need a future blog topic).

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Kristin. I am indeed hoping to provide some pictures of those, if my kids can help me figure out how. Scanner or camera...? I'd like them on the background of my daughter's desk!

Kim said...

I love my Emily Butterfly Bookmark! Thank you!