Dickinson Poems
    When I ordered the books for our class, Final Harvest, the paperback selection of Dickinson's poems I usually order, was out of print, so I ordered The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Billy Collins, instead. But now that I look at that edition, I'm unhappy with the way Collins edited them poems to make them "more accessible to the eye of the modern reader," as he puts it. So ——
    This complicated page is my attempt to give you both the poems I want you to read
and several ways to read them. The list of FIRST LINEs will allow you to identify which poems, in any edition of Dickinson you have (and at this point Final Harvest, featuring Thomas H. Johnson's selection and editing of her poems, is back in print). Clicking on MS., when that link exists for a poem, will bring up a digital facsimile of the poem as Dickinson herself left it for us to read, in her handwritten manuscript. Clicking on TSJ+ will pop up a transcription of the poem based on Johnson's editorial practices, except I've replaced his dashes ( — ) with hyphens ( – ), which I think are closer to Dickinson's own punctuation marks.
    Try reading at least your favorite among the poems in all these versions, and decide for yourself what kinds of difference conventions of editing and publishing make to the experience of Dickinson's poetry. One other approach to her work that I very much recommend is copying your favorite poems out, in your
own handwriting.
    One last note: the first two poems below
aren't included in Collins' edition, so you'll have to read them here. And feel free to read as many more Dickinson poems as you want! but make sure to read at least the following ones:

FIRST LINE
FACSIMILE
MANUSCRIPT
"JOHNSON"
VERSION
This was a poet
MS.
TSJ+
This Consciousness that is aware
MS.
TSJ+
A light exists in spring  
TSJ+
Apparently with no surprise  
TSJ+
Because I could not stop for Death  
TSJ+
Belshazzar had a letter*  
TSJ+
Dare you see a soul at the white heat?  
TSJ+
Death is a dialogue between  
TSJ+
Exultation is the going  
TSJ+
Far from love the Heavenly Father*  
TSJ+
Given in marriage unto thee  
TSJ+
He preached upon "breath" till it argued him narrow  
TSJ+
Hope is the thing with feathers  
TSJ+
I cannot live with you  
TSJ+
I felt a funeral in my brain
MS.
TSJ+
I had been hungry all the years  
TSJ+
I heard a fly buzz when I died
MS.
TSJ+
I know that he exists
MS.
TSJ+
I like to see it lap the miles  
TSJ+
I'm ceded, I've stopped being theirs  
TSJ+
I'm wife; I've finished that  
TSJ+
I never lost as much but twice
MS.
TSJ+
I never saw a moor  
TSJ+
I reason, earth is short  
TSJ+
I shall know why, when time is over  
TSJ+
I stepped from plank to plank
MS.
TSJ+
It was not death, for I stood up  
TSJ+
Mine by the right of the white election!  
TSJ+
Much madness is divinest sense  
TSJ+
My life closed twice before its close  
TSJ+
Nature, the gentlest mother  
TSJ+
No rack can torture me  
TSJ+
One need not be a chamber to be haunted
MS.
TSJ+
Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn  
TSJ+
She rose to his requirement, dropped*  
TSJ+
The brain is wider than the sky
MS.
TSJ+
The brain within its groove  
TSJ+
The bustle in the house  
TSJ+
There's a certain slant of light
MS.
TSJ+
These are the days when the birds come back  
TSJ+
The show is not the show  
TSJ+
The soul selects her own society  
TSJ+
The soul unto itself  
TSJ+
The thought beneath so slight a film  
TSJ+
This is my letter to the world  
TSJ+
To fight aloud is very brave  
TSJ+
To hear an oriole sing
MS.
TSJ+
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee  
TSJ+
What soft, cherubic creatures  
TSJ+
Wild nights! Wild nights!  
TSJ+
SOURCES: MANUSCRIPTS ARE SCANNED FROM THE MANUSCRIPT BOOKS OF EMILY DICKINSON, ED. R. W. FRANKLIN, 2 VOLUMES (© CAMBRIDGE: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1981). DICKINSON'S MANUSCRIPTS ARE IN THE HOUGHTON LIBRARY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, AND THE AMHERST COLLEGE LIBRARY.
TRANSCRIPTIONS ARE FROM THE COMPLETE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON, ED. THOMAS H. JOHNSON (© BOSTON: LITTLE, BROWN, 1960) -- EXCEPT FOR THE THREE MARKED WITH AN ASTERISK, JOHNSON'S VERSIONS OF THE POEMS ARE ALSO IN FINAL HARVEST (© BOSTON: LITTLE, BROWN, 1961).

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