Selected Poems (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – 18 Mar 1991
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In a way, the situation is a bit like the one that prevails with regard to food. Would you rather eat natural food or genetically modified food? Maybe the modified food doesn't taste any different, but it might be doing harmful things to us that the author of real food never intended. So why take a risk when we can have the real thing ?
There are two major editors who can be relied on for accurate texts of ED's poems. These are Dickinson scholars R. W. Franklin and Thomas H. Johnson. Both produced large Variorum editions for scholars, along with reader's editions of the Complete Poems for the ordinary reader. Details of their respective reader's editions are as follows.
THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON : Reading Edition. Edited by R. W. Franklin. 692 pp. Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-674-67624-6 (hbk.)
THE COMPLETE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson. 784 pp. Boston : Little, Brown, 1960 and Reissued. ISBN: 0316184136 (pbk.)
For those who don't feel up to tackling the Complete Poems, there is Johnson's abridgement of his Reader's edition, an excellent selection of what he feels were her best poems:
FINAL HARVEST : Emily Dickinson's Poems. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson. 352 pages. New York : Little Brown & Co, 1997. ISBN: 0316184152 (paperbound).
Friends, do yourself a favor and get Johnson's edition. Why accept a watered-down version when you can have the real thing?
It may not contain all my favorites, but enough of them (109) to get me through a wait in the dentist's office. Or to enrich a tea break downtown.
Certainly it contains the poems I want to commit to memory. Like "I'm nobody! Who are you?" And " I died for beauty...". And "Wild nights! Wild nights!"
The poems are chosen from the earliest anthologies of Emily Dickinson's poetry, which means they don't have the benefit of the latest scholarship. Dickinson's earliest editors had a tendency to normalize her punctuation, and modern scholars have corrected their corrections. But I've decided not to mind, since this is just my portable poet. My authoritative collection stays at home, as did the poet herself.
In short, although this volume may not satisfy serious Dickinson scholars, it has its value for me.