cover image Becoming Emily: The Life of Emily Dickinson

Becoming Emily: The Life of Emily Dickinson

Krystyna Poray Goddu. Chicago Review, $17.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-89733-003-9

In this slim, vivifying biography of the poet Emily Dickinson, Goddu (A Girl Called Vincent) endeavors to “let the poet speak for herself” by interweaving numerous quotations. While the narrative spans Dickinson’s life in Amherst, Mass.—from her birth in 1830 to her death in 1886—it concentrates on her childhood, her strong sibling relationships, and her early friendships, and it highlights her high level of education, unusual for a girl at the time, which included a stint at nearby Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College). In chronicling the poet’s life, Goddu (a PW reviewer) succeeds in sketching the intellectual underpinnings that would emerge in her poetry—for example, science and religion were “not seen as conflicting; rather science was seen as proof of religion”—as well as the interests that fueled her art, such as her lifelong love of gardening (“I pull a flower from the woods”). Though the book’s design feels somewhat institutional, an array of photographs, paintings, reproductions of envelopes on which the subject scribbled poems, and even a page from her “herbarium” enhance the biography. This is a lively and effective introduction to Dickinson’s life and work. Ages 10–up. Agent: Jennifer Unter, the Unter Agency. (Feb.)