The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems (2013)

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This book is a triumph, its worth well beyond the $30 listed on Amazon at the time of this writing. It is a treasure of my library very much akin to my Thames & Hudson edition of William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books. Dickinson’s envelope poems and Blake’s handmade illuminated poems represent an eternal discourse on the marriage of medium and content. Yet while Blake’s process was an arduous task of writing and illustrating backwards (so that his self-invented press would stamp everything in the proper direction!) to produce copies to distribute himself, Dickinson’s envelope poems represent a mind bursting with thought and a hand desperate to keep up.

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Iliad (c. 800 BCE)

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The Iliad is the beginning of the Western Canon of imaginative literature, and we know virtually nothing about its author (we know perhaps a scintilla more than we know about whoever authored, say, The Cloud of Unknowing). But perhaps this is a good thing; as William Gaddis’s elusive Wyatt Gwyon puts it in The Recognitions, “‘What is the artist but the shambles that follows his work around?'” The imagination abounds much more in the lack of information. All we really know is what has come down to us from Herodotus in his Histories, and that the archaic Greek for Homer means “the blind one.”

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