The Gorgeous Nothings (Hardcover)
Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems
New Directions / Christine Burgin, 9780811221757, 272pp.
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
The Gorgeous Nothings is a pivotal book: the first full-color publication of Emily Dickinson’s complete envelope writings in facsimile from her visually stunning manuscripts, here in a deluxe, large-scale edition
The Gorgeous Nothings — the first full-color facsimile edition of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts ever to appear — is a deluxe edition of her late writings, presenting this crucially important, experimental late work exactly as she wrote it on scraps of envelopes. A never-before-possible glimpse into the process of one of our most important poets.The book presents all the envelope writings — 52 — reproduced life-size in full color both front and back, with an accompanying transcription to aid in the reading, allowing us to enjoy this little-known but important body of Dickinson’s writing. Envisioned by the artist Jen Bervin and made possible by the extensive research of the Dickinson scholar Marta L. Werner, this book offers a new understanding and appreciation of the genius of Emily Dickinson.
About the Author
Jen Bervin’s work includes The Dickinson Composites, The Desert, and Nets.
Marta Werner’s books include Emily Dickinson’s Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing and Radical Scatters: An Electronic Archive of Emily Dickinson’s Late Fragments and Related Texts.
Susan Howe has won the Bollingen Prize, the Frost Medal, and the Griffin Award. She is the author of such seminal works as Debths, That This, The Midnight, My Emily Dickinson, The Quarry, and The Birthmark.
Praise For The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems…
— Susan Howe
This exquisitely produced book [The Gorgeous Nothings]—lovingly curated by Bervin and Werner—allows you to encounter Emily Dickinson’s ‘envelope poems’ in full-color facsimile for the first time. It’s an experience suspended between reading and looking, of toggling between those two modes of perception, and it thoroughly refreshes both.
— Ben Lerner
The Gorgeous Nothings works as both an engrossing visual treat and an affecting work of literature, giving us a keen and tangible sense of not only of Dickinson’s writing, but of how she wrote.
The first and immediate shocks are in the words, with other, lingering, aftershocks following in the visual details of their settings. The great thing about [The Gorgeous Nothings] is, of course, that it gives us all of this, complete.
— Holland Cotter
This book is a rare gift for all poetry lovers.
— Craig Morgan Teicher
Visual poets around the world will soon be mining these endlessly suggestive fragments.
— Marjorie Perloff
The beautiful reproduction, on the pages of The Gorgeous Nothings, of what might seem only negligible scraps of waste paper brings us closer to the restlessness of the constantly thinking poet who, in her later years, repeatedly seized her pencil and a fragment of an envelope to write about the lowliest and the most exalted states of being.
— Helen Vendler
We see from The Gorgeous Nothings the way [Dickinson's] art and life were not separate endeavors. Dickinson wrote poetry every time she addressed or received an envelope. Whenever there was paper around, she put quill or pencil right to it. Dickinson, master of paradox. started these un-conversations with nobody, and so many years after her death, now — in curled script, with their sweet, perfect Ms and half-formed Ys, unpublished and unseen until now — they speak to us. And they have so much yet to say.
— Brenda Shaughnessy
This book is a testament to the lasting power of Dickinson’s work and a new insight into the way her work arose. It’s suitably gorgeous production and lyrical accompanying essays make it a treat for the eye and the mind.
An insightful new volume, The Gorgeous Nothings, edited by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner, also provides a fascinating glimpse of Dickinson by assembling images documenting the poetry she scrawled on repurposed envelopes — envelopes that have themselves been elevated to a new sort of art.
For years, Dickinson critics have been looking for some kind of order among the manuscripts - some way to describe or theorize the 'filing system' that the poet left and we found. In The Gorgeous Nothings, instead, what's restored to these traces of the work is a sense of occasioned disorder. What's been preserved through time in her handwriting is the decision to occupy the page. The page becomes just as important as the writing.
The Gorgeous Nothings is one of the most ambitious, important literary feats of the year. It’s stunning, revelatory, and it functions as a key text to Dickinson’s oeuvre: seeing it demands a tectonic shift in the way we read her, brings her back to us even more extremely idiosyncratic than we could have guessed.
[The Gorgeous Nothings] opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating texts in relation to the visual, spatial, and technological possibilities of her medium—composing in response to the confines of her writing world rather than despite it.
The Gorgeous Nothings is proof that one of our most important poets can still amaze and teach us new thing about the practice of poetry.