Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book Giveaway - Into Deep Eternity: An Introduction to Emily Dickinson

Into Deep Eternity: An Introduction to Emily Dickinson by Martha O'Keefe
2001, Hedge School, 111 pages, softcover

This volume contains two books "Emily's Book" and "Mary's Book" - both written for relatives of the author who were interested in learning more about Emily Dickinson. Martha O'Keefe has been studying Emily Dickinson and learning to love her and her works for sixty years. She has also written a 400 page work comparing Emily Dickinson with St. John of the Cross.

The first, "Emily's Book", was written for the author's niece as a gift for her 13th birthday. Naturally, this is an excellent place for young people to start understanding Emily Dickinson and perhaps get their first taste of "real poetry." Even as an adult poetry neophyte, I found this book both helpful and enjoyable. It consists mostly of examples of Dickinson's poetry along with the author's paraphrases of what they mean. The introduction provides some helpful general hints for understanding poetry.

Why study Emily Dickinson? The author explains in the Introduction: "One of the first traits that these poems reveal is the great love the poet had for God's creation. Many people in Emily Dickinson's time ... thought that it might be more noble to 'turn away from the world.' She wouldn't do it. She loved what God had made. I think the love was a great part of the strength and holiness of this poet. She loved life and she loved beauty, but she also knew a great deal of sadness, both in her own life and in the lives of the people who were all around her. She doesn't turn aawy from the problem. It is a part of many of her poems. She faced the sadness and also the many mysteries of life with courage. The world is full of mystery and wonder, and she pondered it all." (Emily's Book, pg. 1)

The second half, "Mary's Book", was written for the author's sister-in-law and other relatives who had asked her to share her love of Emily Dickinson. Because it was written for a mature audience, it is, naturally, more complex than "Emily's Book". In addition to sampling her poetry with helpful explanations and paraphrasings, Martha O'Keefe provides many insights into Emily Dickinson's life, faith, intellect and influences upon her work. It is really lovely to read these passages from an author who at one point describes Emily Dickinson as "my poet". Here is one sample of the poetry...

A poor - torn heart - a tattered heart -

That sat it down to rest -

Nor noticed that the Ebbing Day

Flowed silver to the West -

Nor noticed Night did soft descend -

Nor Constellation burn -

Intent upon the vision

Of latitudes unknown.

The angels - happening that way

This dusty heart espied -

Tenderly took it up from toil

And carried it to God -

There - sandals for the Barefoot -

There - gathered from the gales -

Do the blue havens by the hand

Lead the wandering Sails. (Emily Dickinson, P78)
Donated by Ye Hedge School
Reviewed by Alicia Van Hecke
If you'd like to be entered in this drawing, please leave a comment before tomorrow (January 31st) at 10 a.m. (Pacific time) and check back soon afterwards to see if you've won! We'll be starting another Hedge School drawing soon afterwards.

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