Isabella and Emily Dickinson

I began this site as a promise, of a sort, to a student. I’ll call her Isabella. She’s a natural member of that group of human beings to whom Belles-lettres matter–and by this I mean those people who are attuned to writing that is aesthetically pleasing (whether brutal or lovely) and original (by which I mean a true representation of some part of the life of the writer).

Isabella is in a writing workshop I’m teaching at the college this summer. We were in my office, talking about a promising poem she had written, when it occurred to me that she should start a blog.

What I wanted for her was the solidity of her voice moving out into the world, a place to be a writer beyond our class (which will be over soon and can’t continue to support her). I wanted her to have a world to write to, and a way to begin to make a rough anthology of her poems, pressing each into an entry that would be conserved.

As we talked, I ended up promising Isabella that I would start my own blog (what a word! Talk about your ugly Anglo-Saxon consonants. Block, hog, blench, agog. A blog must surely be something cavepeople hit each other over the head with). Isabella and I gave each other until class tomorrow (a Monday) to have something to show for ourselves. It’s Sunday night now. You see what I am like. I keep my promises, but definitely at the last minute.

I’m taking the name for this site from Emily Dickinson, a poet who sits, for me, on an echelon above almost everyone else.

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me—
The simple News that Nature told—
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see—
For love of Her—Sweet—countrymen—
Judge tenderly—of Me

Dickinson, we know, died without being recognized for her work. Yet she sent her poems, her “letters” out into the world, despite the world not sending anything back to her. She didn’t stop loving the world, appreciating it, feeling it with all the depth of her instrument, body and soul. She never stopped writing, even though it must have seemed to her that there was no answer to her missives. To me, this reveals the heart of a writer more than anything else could, and it’s what I wanted to share with Isabella.

Of course we know now that the answer came, eventually. And like an old house in Amherst, Massachusetts, where one might live out the fullest of lives as a recluse poet, a blog might well be a very good place from which to send your letters to the world, whatever then happens to them in the way of acknowledgment, publication, praise, fate . . .

Do you think so too, Isabella?


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