The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

The Gorgeous Nothings

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In the New Republic, Hillary Kelley reviews The Gorgeous Nothings, a facsimile collection of the poems Emily Dickinson composed.

…to merely call The Gorgeous Nothings, and the envelope poems within it, beautiful, would do a disservice to Marta Werner and Jen Bervin’s remarkable artistic and scholarly achievement.
Bervin and Werner avoid the pitfalls of earlier editors and refuse to interpret Dickinson’s work. Instead, they let the manuscripts speak for themselves and in the process make visceral the spatial interplay between Dickinson’s words and her materials.
The result is a collection of scrap paper that says more about the Belle of Amherst than most biographies could. The madcap pencil strokes, torn edges, and higgledy-piggledy line breaks are the work of a quick-thinking, passionate woman. But the carefully crossed through and reworked prose are the mark of a poet bent on perfection. The harmony between the content and use of space, most of all, reveals Dickinson’s self-awareness and inherent knack for poetic construction. One small triangle of paper reads, with the words forming an upside down pyramid, “In this short life/ that only lasts an hour/ merely/ How much — how/ little — is/ within our/ power.” That self-important word, “power,” is smirkingly wedged between a smudge and a tear. On another little rectangle, Dickinson merely wrote, “A Mir/ acle for/ all.” And on an envelope whose face bears a carefully calligraphed “Miss Emily Dickinson” and whose rear is covered with a more elaborate poem, Dickinson has gently pencilled, “To light, and/ then return —”.



Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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