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From The Reader Bookshelf… The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson

Written by Rachael Norris, 28th October 2021

As part of our ongoing work around The Reader Bookshelf, we've asked staff to share their thoughts about some of the inspirational texts in the collection.

This week, Marketing & Communications Manager, Maisie Jeynes, tells us about her dalliances with Emily Dickinson.


Words by Maisie Jeynes

Emily Dickinson is a poet who's always managed to evade me – or rather, I've evaded her. I knew the headlines ('Miserable Spinster Writes Another Poem About Death') but never really put the time in to explore her work.

So when I was presented with a text to choose from The Reader Bookshelf I decided it was time to give this intriguing character a go.

Picking up anything with the title 'The Complete Works of…' is always daunting (unless it's Saki, God Bless Saki), so instead of aiming for a cover-to-cover read, I chose to dip in and out of the book as the mood took me. As such, my hot-takes aren't founded on a comprehensive understanding of her life, her intentions or her reception, but merely my half-formed thoughts in response to some of the poems I've most enjoyed.


If you've ever experienced feelings of anxiety, dread or shame following a night on the beers, this poem will speak to you. To me, Remorse perfectly describes the feeling of doing a thing that cannot be undone, when your emotions are at their most overwhelming and all-encompassing messy peak: 'Its past set down before the soul, And lighted with a match.' I love the utter sense of despair in this poem, and wholeheartedly agree with the parting line, describing remorse quite simply as 'The complement of hell.' Yes, Emily!

The Show

Totally timeless. A small but perfectly formed poem about spectators being the spectacle - 'The show is not the show, but they that go.' A lovely sparkle of humour amongst the doom and gloom (I jest, turns out ED isn't half as dreary as I first thought).

In A Library

A beautiful poem about books! It reminds me of stumbling across a second-hand bookshop on the cobbled backstreets of a seaside town and picking up dusty old books with dark red covers – 'His quaint opinions to inspect, His knowledge to unfold'. There's something universally magical about very old books and I think Emily Dickinson articulates their allure perfectly!


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