This book was assigned reading for one of my classes and after buying it at the beginning of the semester, I had high hopes and expectations. I was looking forward to reading about Emily Dickinson and learning more about her work. Unfortunately, this book was an enormous disappointment.

My Emily Dickinson is written in prose format, with many, many quotes from other writers. The writing style seems like an attempt at poetic prose, and there are a good amount of singular sentences that I like for making me stop and think. This being said, most of the book seems quite erratic and all over the place. Howe, in a lot of instances, will include a quotation from a written work (not necessarily Dickinson’s), but she will not refer to it afterwards and doesn’t include any analysis as to why she added that quote and how it relates to Dickinson. They break up her own writing which only adds to the sense of being erratic, and sometimes it is hard to tell what is a quotation and what is Howe’s original writing.

When Howe does include analysis of Dickinson’s poetry or letters, it isn’t very long before she throws in history and context. This isn’t a bad thing regarding analysis of literature, but Howe goes on for pages on a small piece of information that has a minor (if even notable) connection to Dickinson. It almost seems as if this is more of a historical nonfiction book, rather than an analysis of Emily Dickinson and her poetry.

Overall, I trudged through the reading of this book and didn’t enjoy the majority of it. There are a lot of sentences that I highlighted and flagged because they made me think, but they still couldn’t make up for how little I enjoyed the rest of the book.

Rating: 1/5 stars


2 thoughts on “My Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe

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