Although Howe clearly disdains categories and hierarchies, My Emily Dickinson demonstrates how a woman writer appropriates and re-visions canonical texts—texts that establish or maintain a patriarchal tradition—and writes a wholly new poetry. Howe also clearly distinguishes between the assurance a male poet has and the voice of a woman, for whom all assurances are at best conditional.
Central to My Emily Dickinson is the implication that poetry does not depend solely on the emotional state of the author or on subject matter. Howe argues that Dickinson’s readings of other texts are sites of resistance to tradition as well as sources of intended appropriation that guided Dickinson’s writing of poetry. Furthermore, Howe provides with My Emily Dickinson an example of the necessary work of truly reading. Howe’s title insists on the reader’s own appropriation of the poem, of dwelling within the poem as the poet dwelled within other texts. Thus, Howe reminds the reader that the poem and the poet separate: “What I put into words is no longer my possession. Possibility has opened. The future will forget, erase, or recollect and deconstruct every poem.”
For Howe, each word of a poem conveys the poet’s intention and language’s possibility. Poetry succeeds if it compresses past languages and histories so as to allow the release of a constellation of connections. In the subsection “Architecture of...
(The entire section is 870 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of My Emily Dickinson Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!