As the Month of Letters draws to a close, I think it might be fun to talk about . . .
And alternative uses of envelopes.
You see, I am a jotter.
I'm always grabbing a scrap of paper to jot a quick note to myself. Scraps, note pads, backs of receipts, napkins . . . whatever is handy. Backs of envelopes are particularly useful for jotting!
I keep little piles of my jottings close at hand. On my desk. Stuck in recipe books. On a side table near my knitting. You never know when inspiration will strike.
It works for me.
It also worked for Emily Dickinson! Apparently, Emily Dickinson always carried scraps of paper and a pencil in the pocket of her dress. That way, she could note and edit and jot whenever the words came to her!
I have always been a fan of Emily Dickinson -- and this winter, during these dull and dreary cold days, I have particularly enjoyed a new collection of her poetry in a beautiful book called The Gorgeous Nothings.
That Emily Dickinson didn't waste a scrap of paper! She practiced New England economy and reused envelopes by cutting or tearing them into pages for her jottings.
This new book - part poetry and part visual art volume - collects all of Emily Dickinson's "envelope poems": her 52 surviving "dribs and drabs" -- her jottings -- on re-used envelopes and pieces of scrap paper. It's a collection of pocket-sized papers, each featuring sentences, stanzas, and roughed out poems -- full size back and front views, with helpful translation (because Emily Dickinson's handwriting is difficult to read, and even more challenging when scrawled on the backs of envelopes).
In this book, I notice the shapes of the various papers . . .
before I notice the poems themselves. The shapes and sizes of scrap paper are widely varied -- and beautiful in their own form and shape. And, then, there is the poetry! Not finished poetry . . . just fragments of poetry in progress!
It's almost like . . . poetry . . . in 3D!
Sometimes the poems seem to follow the shape of the paper (a poem about a bird written on a scrap torn in the shape of a feather, or one about a house in written in the roof-shape of an envelope flap). But sometimes . . . not.
I especially like discovering her "word play" on the envelopes -- her scratching out and substituting words, sometimes even listing several words she might choose from in a particular setting. It is fascinating - and oh-so-"real" - to discover that even one of our most beloved poets had a process to her writing!
It's a wonderful book filled with lovely images and beautiful phrases.
If you're a fan of Emily Dickinson - or even a fan of recycled paper and handwritten notes - you might be delighted by this book, too.
It's a perfect collection . . . of jottings!