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This review is taken from PN Review 168, Volume 32 Number 4, March - April 2006.

STRAY DOG EMILY DICKINSON, The Single Hound, first edition, edited with a preface by Martha Dickinson Bianchi (Hesperus Press) £7.99

The posthumous publication of a poet's work can become a minefield for those involved, as the recent furores over the new collected editions of Robert Lowell and Philip Larkin show. In the case of Emily Dickinson, whose handwritten manuscripts contain 1789 poems, many in multiply revised versions, an editor's task appears still more daunting. Only a few of the poems were published in her lifetime (having been heavily 'corrected' by editors), and Dickinson herself never compiled a definitive collection of her work, simply grouping some of her poems into small booklets she dubbed 'fascicles'. After her death in 1886, Dickinson's relatives published selections of her poetry, again edited to eliminate the oddities intrinsic to her style - her inspired use of dashes and punctuation, her unique capitalisations and line breaks.

These corrupt versions continued to appear until, in 1955, the Belknap Press published a three-volume edition of the complete poems, edited by Thomas H. Johnson. Working from the original manuscripts, Johnson produced the first accurate transcription of the poems and all their variants, arranged in chronological order (as far as could be determined). His one-volume 'reading edition', which presented a single version of each poem, became the standard edition of Dickinson's work (and the basis for Faber's current Complete Poems). More recently, Johnson has been superseded by R.W. Franklin, whose new variorum edition (Belknap, 1998) rectifies previous errors and incorporates fourteen additional poems. Franklin's 2005 'reading edition', available as an import, now stands as ...


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