These fevered days Ten pivotal moments in the making of Emily Dickinson

Martha Ackmann

Book - 2020

"An engaging, intimate portrait of Emily Dickinson, one of America's greatest and most-mythologized poets, that sheds new light on her groundbreaking poetry. On August 3, 1845, young Emily Dickinson declared, "All things are ready"-and with this resolute statement, her life as a poet began. Despite spending her days almost entirely "at home" (the occupation listed on her death certificate), Dickinson's interior world was extraordinary. She loved passionately, w...as ambivalent toward publication, embraced seclusion, and created 1,789 poems that she tucked into a dresser drawer. In These Fevered Days, Martha Ackmann unravels the mysteries of Dickinson's life through ten decisive episodes that distill her evolution as a poet. Ackmann follows Dickinson through her religious crisis while a student at Mount Holyoke, her startling decision to ask a famous editor for advice, her anguished letters to an unidentified "Master," her exhilarating frenzy of composition, and her terror in confronting possible blindness. Together, these ten days provide new insights into Dickinson's wildly original poetry and render a concise and vivid portrait of American literature's most enigmatic figure"--

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BIOGRAPHY/Dickinson, Emily
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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York, NY : W. W. Norton & Company, Inc [2020]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xxiii, 278 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780393609301
0393609308
Main Author
Martha Ackmann (author)
  • All things are ready
  • It is hard for me to give up the world
  • I've been in the habit myself of writing some few things
  • Decided to be distinguished
  • Taller feet
  • Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?
  • Bulletins all day from immortality
  • You were not aware that you saved my life
  • Success is counted sweetest
  • Called back.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Ackmann's literary biography of Emily Dickinson takes a unique approach, focusing on 10 periods in the poet's life that represent significant growth or change rather than chronicling her life as a whole. The result is a deep dive into the milieu and mind of the elusive poet, beginning at 14 and ending with Dickinson's death. Ackmann combines rigorous scholarship, thorough explication of the poems, and a sharp familiarity with the geography of Dickinson's world in Amherst, Massachusetts, with a fiction writer's sensibility. Indeed, the book feels like a novel, and casual readers will be greedy for what happens next, while those steeped in Dickinson's poems will delight in learning about the moments that gestated them. For example, a passage about snakes in a letter to a friend clearly represents the seeds of A narrow Fellow in the Grass. This is not a hagiography that whitewashes Dickinson's complexities; rather, it is an affectionate and knowledgeable look at the person and the poet. Read this with R. W. Franklin's edition of Dickinson's poems close at hand.WOMEN IN FOCUS Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

At age 14, Emily Dickinson (1830–86) committed herself to the writing life, beginning her journey as a poet who would challenge and ultimately alter the ethos of America. Ackmann (Curveball) posits that decisive episodes in Dickinson's life contributed to her evolution as a strikingly singular voice in American poetry. The author probes Dickinson's legacy by focusing on her unsparing ambition, her refusal to commit to mainstream religion, her meticulous process of revision and belief in the sustaining power of art, and her reclusiveness as she aged. Also touched on are Dickinson's close family relationships, her friendship with author Helen Hunt Jackson, and key figures instrumental to the development of her poems, including the mysterious "Master," to whom Dickinson addressed dozens of letters. The book closes with the poet's death at 56 and the discovery of nearly 2,000 poems hidden away in a dresser drawer. VERDICT The compelling, eminently readable, novel-like style of Ackmann's writing makes this new take on the poet's artistic and personal growth highly recommended for both scholars and casual readers long captivated by the "Belle of Amherst."—Denise J. Stankovics, Vernon, CT Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Ackmann (Curveball), expanding on her Mount Holyoke seminar on Emily Dickinson, recounts 10 days in the poet's life in this excellent literary study. Some of the days covered initially seem trivial—as when, on Aug. 3, 1845, 14-year-old Dickinson wrote a letter to her school friend Abiah—but Ackmann excels at revealing her subject's passion and vibrant imagination even in innocuous moments. Others are more distinctly significant, such as Dickinson's first meeting with longtime correspondent Thomas Wentworth Higginson on Aug. 16, 1870. (Fortunately, Higginson wrote down every detail he remembered, including Dickinson commenting "if I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.") Ackmann freely draws from historical records, poems, and letters, sampling some of Dickinson's best bon mots, as when, complaining about her chores, she implores, "God keep me from what they call households." Though far from comprehensive, Ackmann's account gets to the core of her subject with remarkable clarity. Though the book's Dickinson can be odd, ethereal, and contradictory, other qualities emerge as well—her humor, charm, and unwavering confidence in her own work. The result is a remarkably refreshing account of one of America's finest poets. (Feb.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Shares remarkable insights into the mythologized world of Emily Dickinson through 10 decisive episodes that marked her evolution as a poet, from her religious crisis as a student at Mount Holyoke through her relationship with sister-in-law first reader, Susan. (biography & autobiography). Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"An engaging, intimate portrait of Emily Dickinson, one of America's greatest and most-mythologized poets, that sheds new light on her groundbreaking poetry. On August 3, 1845, young Emily Dickinson declared, "All things are ready"-and with this resolutestatement, her life as a poet began. Despite spending her days almost entirely "at home" (the occupation listed on her death certificate), Dickinson's interior world was extraordinary. She loved passionately, was ambivalent toward publication, embraced seclusion, and created 1,789 poems that she tucked into a dresser drawer. In These Fevered Days, Martha Ackmann unravels the mysteries of Dickinson's life through ten decisive episodes that distill her evolution as a poet. Ackmann follows Dickinson throughher religious crisis while a student at Mount Holyoke, her startling decision to ask a famous editor for advice, her anguished letters to an unidentified "Master," her exhilarating frenzy of composition, and her terror in confronting possible blindness. Together, these ten days provide new insights into Dickinson's wildly original poetry and render a concise and vivid portrait of American literature's most enigmatic figure"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

On August 3, 1845, young Emily Dickinson declared, “All things are ready” and with this resolute statement, her life as a poet began. Despite spending her days almost entirely “at home” (the occupation listed on her death certificate), Dickinson’s interior world was extraordinary. She loved passionately, was hesitant about publication, embraced seclusion, and created 1,789 poems that she tucked into a dresser drawer.These Fevered DaysThese Fevered Days

Review by Publisher Summary 4

An engaging, intimate portrait of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s greatest and most-mythologized poets, that sheds new light on her groundbreaking poetry.