Welcome spring with the poetry and gardens of Emily Dickinson

The Gardens of Emily Dickinson

Farr, Judith. by Judith Farr with Louise Carter Harvard, 2004
350p, 0674012933 $26.95

The Gardens of Emily Dickinson book cover

This is the first major study of flowers and gardening in the life and work of Emily Dickinson, and even the devoted reader of Dickinson will be surprised at how very important flowers were to the poet. More than a third of her poems and half her letters refer to flowers. In her lifetime Dickinson cultivated substantial gardens around her home in the spring and summer and in a conservatory on her father’s property year round. Her intimacy with flowers and the practice of gardening became a rich source for analogy and metaphor in her writing. In addition to the literary scholarship, including biographical and poetical analyses, Farr (emer., Georgetown Univ.) brings to this discussion, the book includes a fascinating chapter by Carter, a professional horticulturalist, who through a study of letters and memoirs tries to re-create Dickinson’s gardening methods and to identify the kinds of flowers she raised. Although discussion of the emotional and psychological well-being Dickinson must have gained from gardening is not a prominent feature of this narrative, the reader cannot help but speculate on the effects of this healthy activity on the poet. This well-illustrated book will delight both scholars and gardeners.

Summing Up: Essential. All collections.
Reviewer: P. J. Ferlazzo, Northern Arizona University
Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature – English & American
Choice Issue: Oct 2004