New poems of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886

Book - 1993

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Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press c1993.
Main Author
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886 (-)
Physical Description
125 p.
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Choice Review

On the face of it there is something surreal about a late 20th century scholar claiming to have discovered 498 new poems written more than 100 years ago by a poet who was not aware of having written them. Shurr combed Emily Dickinson's three volumes of letters for prose lines that sounded like poetry. He then plucked these prose lines out of the letters and reformatted them to look like poems. Shurr states that in reading the letters there were four principal devices he looked for as clues to these hidden poems: "a line of iambic tetrameter followed by a line of iambic trimeter ... the use of a dash for a pause, the use of intitial capitals to emphasize words, and her idiosyncratic use of 'it's' as a possessive." This led to his discovery of five main categories of poems: epigrams, something he calls "prose-formatted poems," miscellaneous forms including the riddle, fragmentary poems, and juvenilia. Out of all this, Shurr's principal service to Dickinson studies is his identification of some 200 epigrammatic sayings by the poet. To call some of them poems is stretching the point, but there is no doubt that Dickinson excelled in writing the pointed idea in concise, clear, memorable language. Shurr's argument is dubious for the other 298 "poems" supposedly hidden in the prose of her letters. The value and authenticity of his claims will only be proven if over time other scholars find they can incorporate these "poems" into substantive commentary on her. P. J. Ferlazzo; Northern Arizona University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

/*STARRED REVIEW*/ "I had hoped to express more. Love more I never can." This is one of the 200 epigrams William Shurr has "excavated" from Emily Dickinson's extant letters. In what may well be a controversial volume, Shurr, a professor at the University of Tennessee and a Dickinson expert, boldly asserts that Dickinson did, in fact, "express more" than the traditional canon of her work would indicate. His case claiming that Dickinson embedded numerous poems in the prose of her "highly charged" letters is well argued and convincingly presented. He describes how painstaking scrutiny of the poet's letters revealed sections written in her signature line and poetic voice: her "fourteeners" in hymn meter. Furthermore, there is ample historical precedent for freeing Dickinson's poems from prose format. Dickinson, ever the writer, thinker, and sage, seemed to draw from a cache of previously composed poems when she corresponded, incorporating them fluidly and subtly into messages of a more prosaic nature. Shurr has recovered nearly 500 poems and organized them into five categories: the epigrams, an important new genre in Dickinson's oeuvre; poems that resemble her known works in structure and tone; miscellaneous forms, such as riddles; what appear to be rough drafts and fragments; and juvenilia. Although skeptics may fret, true lovers of poetry will welcome these rediscovered treasures and take pleasure in their quiet intensity, wisdom, and grace. For more "new" Dickinson writings, see Fuller's Diary of Emily Dickinson in this issue's Fiction section. (Reviewed Sept. 15, 1993)0807821152Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Shurr ( The Marriage of Emily Dickinson ) carries one step further Thomas H. Johnson's practice of extracting poetic passages from the prose of Dickinson. Scrupulously reading her letters for passages that contain her familiar iambics, meter or punctuation, Shurr gathers nearly 500 such ``excavations,'' which he has altered minimally to conform with Dickinson's ``usual poetic lines.'' In addition, he isolates such categories as riddles and epigrams: ``I thought your approbation Fame- / and it's withdrawal Infamy.'' The brevity and visual intensity of many short pieces show Dickinson as a precursor of the Imagists. But instead of letting the excerpts speak for themselves, Shurr fleshes them out with other poetic excerpts that require contextual explanation and ``workshop'' fragments that, he tells us, would have made excellent poems had they been further developed. A repetitive discussion of Dickinson's form and metric structure prefaces chapters as well as individual works. Such academic posturing interferes with the reader's casual enjoyment of much of the material here, which falls so naturally into poetry it's difficult to imagine it as anything else. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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Review by Library Journal Review

Shurr (English, Univ. of Tennessee) has assembled the first extensive compilation of excerpts from the letters of Emily Dickinson. In doing so, he examines the poetic qualities of the letters in often daring ways. What he has not done, as many have mistakenly gathered from the media excitement, is to discover a single new Dickinson poem. Every line, regardless of its reformatting by Shurr, is excised from the previously published letters. Shurr rightly points out many poetic elements in the letters, as readers have done since 1894. His book returns to the spirit of Dickinson's first 19th-century editors, who presumed to alter the poet's lines for her. While we marvel at the brilliance of these excerpts, we are always aware of the editorial license taken with the material. Of interest to scholars but confusing to nonspecialists; not an essential purchase.-- Daniel J. Lombardo, The Jones Lib., Inc., Amherst, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

YA-Readers intrigued by Dickinson's poetry will welcome this unusual volume, which increases her body of work by 498 selections. Shurr has accomplished this by combing three volumes of the poet's letters and identifying epigrams, riddles, and various longer lyrical pieces within the prose. These will both challenge and delight serious readers, for wit, unusual rhythms, and musical rhymes predominate. The organization is easy to follow: the divisions include a discussion of epigrams, a new genre for Dickinson critics; many fully developed poems-within-letters; miscellaneous experimental forms; and a collection of the poet's juvenalia, instructive for its foreshadowing of technique and themes to come. Although some critics will object to Shurr's technique of labeling prose lines as poems, this volume expands students' notions of where poetry can be found. Writing teachers will mine this rich new resource as well.-Margaret Nolan, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.