A Poem For Saturday

Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

This week we’re featuring fragments or drafts of poems by Emily Dickinson, composed on envelopes or postal wrappers from the years 1864-1886. According to Jen Bervin and Marta Werner, the editors of the astonishingly dickinsononebeautiful book which gathers them together, The Gorgeous Nothings, they are culled  “from 1,414 contemporaneous drafts and 887 letter drafts.” Bervin writes, “Sometimes Dickinson’s writing fills the space of the envelope like water in a vessel or funnels into the triangular shape of the flap,” as is the case with the example we’re featuring today.

For those who live in or near New York City, there is a riveting exhibit at The Drawing Center of similar material, “sometimes referred to as ‘scraps’ within Dickinson scholarship,” as Bervin notes. Gazing at Dickinson’s  handwriting on the back of a Western Union telegram or a household memo or recipe is an experience not to be missed – truly breathtaking. The exhibit is up until January 10 at 35 Wooster Street.

The first selection:

In    this    short    life

that   only    lasts   an   hour


How much-   how


within our


(From The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson © 2013 by Christine Burgin and New Directions. Transcription images copyright © 2013 by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.)