on "sanitized" editions of Dickinson's poems

Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 21:36:05 -0400 (EDT)



Chris has commented on Dickinson's apparent unwillingness or refusal to
publish. He wrote:

|     It has been stated that the "Vesuvius at Home" could have been
| Dickinson's poetry.  With the knowlege that Dickinson never had her own
| poetry published, I think that she may have felt like a reclusive, dormant
| "Vesuvius".  I also think the language in #303 ("--shuts the Door--") may
| also be indicative of the reclusive purpose of her writing.  I do not think
| she wrote with the intention of being ackowleged.

Actually, she did publish several of her poems. But it was a very bad
experience for her. She found that editors simply assumed that her
punctuation--even in some cases her wording--could and should be
"corrected." Editors "normalized" her dashes, making them commas,
semi-colons, colons and periods, depending on the context. 

Even in the middle of this century, editors and anthologizers "took
liberties" with Miss Dickinson's poems, by reprinting what they knew to be
"sanitized" versions that the poet had not intended.

We have an example of such a version:


This is "I taste a liquor never brewed" as it appeared in Oscar Williams's
very very very famous "a compact anthology of 3 centuries of poetry by 20
great American poets" called THE MENTOR BOOK OF MAJOR AMERICAN POETS. The
edition of this book I used to put this version of the poem on the web was
my own paperback copy from boyhood. This was the way I first encountered
the poetry of Emily Dickinson!

So take a look at the Oscar Williams's version, and compare it to the
version we know to follow Dickinson's manuscript of the poem (the version
in the Norton), and

		write to the listserv
		to comment on the differences.

And respond to this:

		is the poem *really* that different?
		does it *really* make such a difference that
			Oscar Williams published the edited
		was little boy Al's first encounter with Dickinson
			*really* wrong or distorted because
			of this?


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