“One eye squeezed like a bag phone between shoulder & ear.
Another eye stuck in a paper towel tube like it’s a telescope
& the whole country sky is as recyclable & sparse as the goatee
I couldn’t grow when I wanted one most. In other words, I’m
back in Indiana & things are looking up.”
— From “Astronomy of Fishes and Emily Dickinson (1986)” by Adrian Matejka. National Poetry Month Day 19!
“I dwell in Possibility — / A fairer House than Prose — / More numerous for windows — / Superior — for Doors.”
The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, reviewed by Camden Avery


Doctor Girlfriend’s comp book pages from last weeks Batman and Emily Dickinson mash-up assignment in Making Comics, Art 448, (Taught by Lynda Barry /Professor Sluggo at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.)

This is so beautiful.


Despite her rarely leaving her (okay, New England) house, there is a spiritual homelessness in Dickinson that I loved even as a youth. She writes of an imaginary spider that is “so much more at Home than I / …I felt myself a visitor.” She refers to countless things, inanimate and animate, as “Souvenirs,” as if she were just passing through this world on her way to somewhere else, which is ironic when one considers how much of her life she spent at home. Much is made of her sense of place, which seems like a no-brainer for such a stationary individual, but I don’t think she’d disagree with Samuel Beckett’s idea that the true artist comes from nowhere.

I had coped with many of the events in my childhood by pretending that my home wasn’t my home and that its people weren’t my people. One practices this for a while, and before one knows it, one suffers from a perpetual disassociation, or Chronic Tourism. One becomes an unscientific anthropologist, absent-mindedly cataloging the ways of the natives. An unfortunate side effect of this syndrome is that one occasionally fails to consider the feelings of one’s subjects. Once, I used the answer blanks of a test—for which I was unprepared—to write a malicious analysis of Miss Crosswell (her fears, her righteousness, her lonely motivation). The assistant principal threatened me with expulsion, saying that my attack had made Miss Crosswell cry, that it had hurt her more than any other blustery teen cruelty she’d weathered. She informed me that Miss Crosswell was one of the few teachers who honestly loved her job, who wasn’t here by some career default. It was decided that I would have to “attend” Miss Crosswell’s class sitting out in the hall until she could accept my apology and allow me to return. Which she never did. Suited me fine; I could be even more of an impartial observer from my desk in the hall. But there was a long-term punishment brewing, one as ironic and tragicomic as that of Tantalus or Sisyphus. I would grow up to be an English teacher freighted with spiritual complications and personal investment in my work, standing in front of an adolescent powder keg, teaching, among other things, the work of Emily frigging Dickinson.”

No lie, this is one of my all time favorite Rumpus essays. It was originally printed in a 2003 issue of Oxford America and was discovered, and reprinted online, by our very own Kyle Minor.


(Image By Shary Boyle)


BLVR: You were my teacher, Marie Howe. The best thing you ever taught me was to get the right tattoo of Emily Dickinson. Do you remember that? We were looking at…

MH: The awful pictures? The dolled up pictures?

BLVR: The illustrated one where they gave her the kind of Dorothy Hammil haircut and the clown collar. 

MH: And the little rosy face.

BLVR: You said, “Don’t get that, Ali!” 

MH: (laughs)

BLVR: I was like, “Thank God! I went to graduate school for something.” Do you have any advice for writers today?

MH: Write something people want to read who live in Baghdad. Write something that people would want to listen to if it were on CNN. That’s what I wish Americans would start doing. I wish this for myself. I wish we’d start writing for the Globe, the World. Not to mention the aliens who are among us. Do what Emerson says: always do what you’re afraid to do.

“At their best, love and translation share some contradictions, including selfishness and generosity. Translation is impossible, or at least not very good, without a passionate desire to own the material and leave one’s mark on it. At the same time, few translators want to “hide the light” of their translations “under a bushel.” The translations they undertake and complete belong to them, are marked by them, and yet they are without much value unless shared.”

Emily Dickinson was not out of her mind but too much in it. I teach her truncated bio and a handful of poems for this same class. I show an American Masters bio-pic video, and this woman who is the Director of the Emily Dickinson Museum says that of all the Dickinson children, Emily was “by far the smartest,” but that Emily’s brother Austin was, as the oldest male child, “the center of the family’s attention.”

It is incredible, to me, to think that there was ever a point in history when you might refer to her as Austin Dickinson’s sister.

— From Sister by