Emily Dickinson saw fewer than twenty of her 1,775 poems published during her lifetime: when she died in 1886, her obscurity as a poet was nearly total. Now widely recognized as one of the great American poets of the nineteenth century, she is one of a handful from any period whose enduring stature in the world of letters is matched by the loyal affection of generation after generation of readers.
In this distinguished addition to The Essential Poets series, Joyce Carol Oates presents a "personal--yet not private" collection of Dickinson favorites, selecting from relatively obscure works as well as better-known poems to illuminate Dickinson's often unacknowledged range. Oates takes care to introduce us to the poet's subversive playfulness; to her rebellious nature and radical aesthetic; to her gender-bending persona and surprisingly wicked humor.
At the heart of this collection, of course, stands the work that made Dickinson's reputation as one of America's great visionary poets: an artist who has written with stoic control and astonishing lucidity about the soul's darkest, most terrifying hours.
A concise and illuminating introduction to the work of an essential poet, The Essential Dickinson is also an extraordinary tribute from one remarkable woman and writer to another. It confirms once again that great art endures, in Auden's striking phrase, "in the guts of the living."