Sunday, November 21, 2021

Poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx

My nosegays are for Captives
Dim – long expectant eyes –
Fingers denied the plucking,
Patient till Paradise –
To such, if they sh'd whisper
Of morning and the moor –
They bear no other errand,
And I, no other prayer.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was a reclusive American poet. Unrecognized in her own time, Dickinson is known posthumously for her innovative use of form and syntax.

The New York Botanical Garden's library produced an exhibit, “Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers." An exhibition of over 50 books, manuscripts, watercolors, & photographs retold the story of Emily Dickinson’s life including her reclusiveness, her adoration of flowers & plants, and her reluctance to share her poetry.
Links between her verse & the plants & flowers provided inspiration for her poems on display along with original manuscripts. Most importantly it also included an interactive exhibit of Emily's own herbarium of over 400 plants, now in the online collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Dickinson studied botany from the age of 9 & throughout her life tended the garden at the Homestead, the family's home. She sent homegrown bouquets to friends, studied botany at Amherst Academy, & tended her own glassed conservatory off her father's study. As an amateur botanist, she collected, pressed, classified, & labeled more than 400 flower specimens.
A reproduction of her only existing dress (she reportedly wore only white later in life) is on loan from the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst.
The exhibit also included what must be a guess at a recreation of Emily's garden. No historical documents about her actual garden seem to exist, only her herbarium, letters, & poems referring to plants. Over a third of Dickinson's poems & nearly half of her letters allude with passionate intensity to her favorite wildflowers, to traditional blooms like the daisy or gentian, & to the exotic gardenias & jasmines of her conservatory.
The exhibition catalog featureed essays by Dickinson authors Judith Farr & Marta McDowell. McDowell wrote Emily Dickinson's Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and Gardener, & Farr wrote The Gardens of Emily Dickinson.
It is clear to those who read this blog, that Emily Dickinson is one of my favorite poets. I wrote my undergrad senior honors paper on her work in college.