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These Fevered Days

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These Fevered Days

Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson

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These Fevered Days

“Emily Dickinson wrote 1,789 poems that she tucked into a dresser drawer. The majority were published posthumously, catapulting her into history as one of America’s most well-known and prolific poets. Her poetry is genius in its simplicity and accessibility, both internally focused and observant of the natural world, and is additionally remarkable in that Emily Dickinson traveled little, never married, and was a famed recluse who preferred to live in her parents’ home. While biographies and literary criticism of her poetry abound, in These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson, Dickinson scholar and recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, Martha Ackmann, is adding to the scholarship by placing Dickinson’s work in the context of seminal moments in the poet’s life. Using primary source material, Ackmann centers her work around critical events and influences while grounding it in the intimate minutiae of Dickinson’s daily life.”

River Dog Book Co. image BrocheAroe, River Dog Book Co.


On August 3, 1845, young Emily Dickinson declared, All things are ready and with this resolute statement, her life as a poet began. Despite spending her days almost entirely at home (the occupation listed on her death certificate), Dickinsons interior world was extraordinary. She loved passionately, was hesitant about publication, embraced seclusion, and created 1,789 poems that she tucked into a dresser drawer. In These Fevered Days, Martha Ackmann unravels the mysteries of Dickinsons life through ten decisive episodes that distill her evolution as a poet. Ackmann follows Dickinson through her religious crisis while a student at Mount Holyoke, which prefigured her lifelong ambivalence toward organized religion and her deep, private spirituality. We see the poet through her exhilarating frenzy of composition, through which we come to understand her fiercely selfcritical eye and her relationship with her sister-in-law and first reader, Susan Dickinson. Contrary to her reputation as a recluse, Dickinson makes the startling decision to ask a famous editor for advice, writes anguished letters to an unidentified Master, and keeps up a lifelong friendship with writer Helen Hunt Jackson. At the peak of her literary productivity, she is seized with despair in confronting possible blindness. Utilizing thousands of archival letters and poems as well as never-before-seen photos, These Fevered Days constructs a remarkable map of Emily Dickinsons inner life. Together, these ten days provide new insights into her wildly original poetry and render a concise and vivid portrait of American literatures most enigmatic figure

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