Emily Dickinson archive news from around the web

An interview with Marta Werner, co-editor of The Gorgeous Nothings,  at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/246768

I do not see how she arranges and stab-binds the gatherings of poems we call fascicles, or how she archives them, whether with other bound gatherings only, or intermixed with loose sheets and fragments. I do not see how, or even if, she distinguishes among poems, prose, and passages of indeterminate genre. I do not see her search for a poem written years earlier to revise or only to reread it. As she herself wrote, there is so much more I “cannot see to see -”

From “Enigmatic Dickinson Revealed Online” (nytimes.com):

The online Emily Dickinson Archive, to be inaugurated on Wednesday, promises to change all that by bringing together on a single open-access Web site thousands of manuscripts held by Harvard University, Amherst College, the Boston Public Library and five other institutions. Now, scholars and lay readers alike will be able to browse easily through handwritten versions of favorite poems, puzzle over lines that snake along the edges of used envelopes and other scraps of paper, or zoom in on one of Dickinson’s famous dashes until it almost fills the screen.

“To have all these manuscripts together on one site and to have it so thoroughly searchable is extraordinary,” said Cristanne Miller, a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a member of the project’s advisory board.

 From “Trove of Emily Dickinson Manuscripts to Appear Online” (bostonglobe.com): 

Todd said Emily Dickinson’s brother had promised her a piece of land and failed to deliver, according to Martha Nell Smith, a professor of English at the University of Maryland and executive director and coordinator of the Dickinson Electronic Archives.

When the Dickinsons asked Todd to return her trove of Dickinson material, she refused, Smith said. In 1956, Todd’s daughter gave the collection — some 850 poems and fragments and 350 letters — to Amherst College, where Dickinson’s grandfather had been a founder and her father and brother served as treasurers.

Meanwhile, the manuscripts that remained in the Dickinson family — some 700 poems and 300 letters — ended up being sold to Gilbert Montague, a distant cousin of Dickinson, who gave the trove in 1950 to Harvard, his alma mater.

Ever since, the two institutions have jockeyed for the mantle of most complete Emily Dickinson collection. Up until a few decades ago, Harvard suggested that Amherst did not have rightful ownership of the collection because “Mabel never gave it back to the Dickinsons,” said Smith, who is a consultant to Harvard on the digital collection. As recently as the 1950s, there was talk of a lawsuit over publishing rights, Kelly said. “There’s always been a hint of animosity over these manuscripts.”

Book News from npr.org

The Emily Dickinson Archive, launched Wednesday, gives free access to high-resolution photos of thousands of the poet’s manuscripts, including envelopes or bits of paper with poems jotted on them, letters, doodles and many, many exuberant em-dashes. Only 10 of Dickinson’s poems were published in her lifetime, and they were published anonymously and heavily edited. The launch of the site was colored by a dispute between Harvard and Amherst College, which hold two of the largest collections of Dickinson’s papers. Mike Kelly, head of archives and special collections at Amherst College, toldThe Boston Globe that Harvard was unfairly dominating the project, saying, “It should say a joint project.” Harvard declined to comment.

“The Manuscripts of Emily Dickinson” by Mike Kelly at The Public Domain Review

Another notable example of Dickinson’s varied manuscript practise is this torn piece of a chocolate wrapper. The lines written on the back don’t form a complete poem: “necessitates celerity/were better/nay were immemorial/may/to duller/ by duller/things” Of course, we don’t have any evidence of exactly when and where she made these pencil marks, but I like to imagine her in the middle of baking something, or possibly taking a rest while waiting for something to bake in the oven. Was she struck with those lines and urgently grabbed the first piece of paper at hand to capture them before they fled? Was she idly tearing up the chocolate wrapper then jotted down the words it sparked in her brain? The joy of such a collection as this is that we will never really know, but this object can inspire a universe of speculation in a way that the lines on their own, transcribed into print and packaged as a scholarly text never could. Also: chocolate from Paris was somehow available in Amherst, MA in the mid-nineteenth century. Good to know. – See more at: http://publicdomainreview.org/2013/11/05/the-manuscripts-of-emily-dickinson/#sthash.pEw7vAPw.dpuf