“Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem”

The Dickinson Electronic Archive has an interesting digital article called “Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem” by Martha Nell Smith and Lara Vetter which focuses on the rich compositional history of “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers.”

Here’s an excerpt from the “Introduction”

Among the ten lyrics known to have been printed during the poet’s lifetime, “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers” offers the only example of Emily Dickinson responding directly to another reader’s advice. At the behest of Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, her most beloved friend and sister-in-law, correspondent of nearly forty years and next door neighbor for three decades, Emily Dickinson revised this poem several times. As readers will see, Dickinson labored over “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers,” searching for an appropriate second stanza, and in the process wrote four different verses for possible coupling with the striking first. This is especially important since Dickinson is perhaps perhaps most well-known for her isolation, for purportedly writing all alone, completely separated from the world.

Feel free to explore the article and check out features like a version of the poem published in the Springfield Republican (1862) and a manuscript version which Emily Dickinson sent to her sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson; one can also use an interactive feature to re-order and compare the different versions.

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