Ian Fulcher

Yielding to the Author
Printing from Emily Dickinson's Holograph

Death is a Dialogue
The Spirit and the Dust.
"Dissolve" says Death.
The Spirit "Sir
I have Another Trust.

 Death doubts it-
+Argues from the ground-
The Spirit turns away
Just laying off for
An Overcoat of Clay.

 + Reasons

My essay dealt thoroughly on the issues of form and text space relations within the poem "Death is a Dialogue between," and it is these issues that govern my editing of the poem. I have found this the most interesting and sobering of all the assignments so far because we are not exchanging scholarly criticism, but applying it. In doing so, I've found that the issues we've discussed pale compared to their practical application. For example, I can say that I respect Dickinson's choice to publish in manuscript, and that therefore her manuscript versions of her poems should be given the most weight. I can also point out the visual aesthetic achieved in this poem: the balance of the two six line stanzas, the single word on the second and penultimate lines setting up a mirrorlike "conversation" between the two stanzas. I can also reiterate the issue of the replacement word at the bottom of the poem and its engagement as part of the visual space of the poem without being part of the poem's linear/temporal experience. But that's just what the poem does for me. To actually suggest a written version of the poem and have that version appear as the standard for others is an intimidating place to be. I don't envy the weight that previous editors of Dickinson must have endured.

Ultimately, I have chosen to retype line for line the representation from Dickinson's holograph, substituting the conventional dash of my word processor for her markings. One reason for this is the fact that the assignment involves me handing my version over on disk, a problem Dickinson herself would have never exactly encountered, although her dash would have been standardized on the few occasions in which she appeared in print. The line break is preserved even when it appears as though "the only reason the break occurred is because Dickinson ran out of space." I don't believe this. Emily Dickinson published her work. She finished many poems. Had she wanted all of the words on the line, her final copy would have reflected that. These holographs are finished works. And also for this reason I have kept the alternate word. It served a purpose for her when she published it, and although it is very significant to me, I can't be sure that my own personal bias is in keeping with her authorial wishes. What I do know of her intent is in black and white on the page. Apart from reproducing an image of the holograph, this is the best representation of the poem I believe possible.