THE WORLD OF EMILY DICKENSON: A Visual Biography by Polly Longsworth (W.W. Norton) LANGUAGE AS OBJECT: Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Art edited by Susan Danly, with additional contributions by Martha A Sandweiss, Karen Sanchez-Eppler, Polly Longsworth, Christopher Benfey, and David Porter (Mead Art Museum, Amherst College in association with the University of Massachusetts Press) These highly illustrated tributes to the poetic genius of Emily Dickinson, who left an enduring literary legacy—nearly 2,000 poems offer a close view of her social milieu and her life which become apparent was not as reclusive as the popular imagination has been misled to believe and a catalogue of her influence on contemporary artists and poets.
With over 275 portraits, engravings, maps, unit other illustrations in The World of Emily Dickinson attest to much broader life than is commonly thought. Polly Longsworth’s fluent introductory essay portrays a young woman with unusual intelligence and willing to meeting the world on her own terms, engaging with people, ideas, natural phenomena, and her nineteenth-century culture, while choosing to keep her distance from the public eye. The pictures and captions build on that essay, exploring Dickinson’s immediate surroundings, the Dickinson family’s active and influential public life, as well as close friends and relatives, the growing town of Amherst, and the intellectual elite of the time. Longsworth also traces Dickinson’s writing career, from a youthful valentine to the bundling of her poems into fascicles, and from the few hesitant publications luring her life to the acclaim of her posthumous books. As an introduction to the poet’s life there is no better visual commentary.
Longsworth's major biographical study of the poet is a rich source of documentary information that explodes many myths that have become common place about the poet. Unfortunately it is out of print, Emily Dickinson: Her Letter to the World.
In LANGUAGE AS OBJECT: Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Art edited by Susan Danly, with additional contributions by Martha A Sandweiss, Karen Sanchez-Eppler, Polly Longsworth, Christopher Benfey, and David Porter (Mead Art Museum, Amherst College in association with the University of Massachusetts Press) we are treated to an exhibit of Dickinson representation by contemporary poets and artists. Essays by Karen Sanchez-Eppler, "Exhibiting Sheets of Place" Seeing Emily Dickinson through Contemporary Art; Polly Longsworth, "Whose But Her Shy—Immortal Face" The Poet’s Visage in the Popular Imagination; and Christopher Benfey, Alcohol and Pearl: Dickinson’s imprint on American Poetry. Contemporary poets represented are: Hart Crane, "To Emily Dickinson;" Richard Wilbur, "Altitudes;" John Berryman, "Your Birthday in Wisconsin You Are 140;" Adrienne Rich, "I Am in Danger—Sir—;" Amy Clampitt, "Amherst;" Sandra M. Gilbert, "Emilys Bread;" Thomas Lux, "Emily’s Mom;" Mary Jo Salter, "Reading Room;" Lucie Brock-Broido, "Into Those Great Countries of the Blue Sky of Which We Don’t Know Anything;" and Agha Shahid Ali, "A Nostalgist’s Map of America." The visual artists included are: Will Barnet, Judy Chicago, Joseph Cornell, Robert Cumming, Lesley Dill, Mary Frank, Roni Horn, Carla Rae Johnson, Paul Katz, Barbara Morgan, Abe Murray, Barbara Penn, and Linda Schwalen. Entries by Susan Danly with David Porter on the artists’ works focus upon Emily Dickinson’s Impact on Contemporary Art. This is an important exhibit because it brings together some meaningful artistic commentary on the poet’s enduring persuasive voice.
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