During the hot afternoons of the last few days, I completely immersed myself in a lovely book– Emily Dickinson’s Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and Gardener, by Marta McDowell. I love poetry, and I love reading about the gardens of the great gardeners, so this was the perfect choice for me. And to add depth to this immersion, I pulled from my bookshelf my volume of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, as well as another beautiful little book for young people, Emily Dickinson: A Brighter Garden, with some of her poems illustrated by the wonderful artist (and gardener), Tasha Tudor. What a lovely way to spend my heat-wave afternoons!
The “Belle of Amherst” was a brilliant poet who drew much of her inspiration from nature and from her garden, in particular. Her love for flowers and for gardening started very young, as did her love for words and poetry. As a teenager, she put together a very impressive “herbarium,” a collection of dried and pressed plants, all beautifully organized and identified by their Latin names. She loved spending time in her family’s gardens and in the meadows and woods adjacent to the family homestead.
During her lifetime, Emily DIckinson was known as a gifted gardener. Not everyone knew that she also wrote poetry, although she shared many of her poems with friends and family. Very few of her poems were published during her lifetime, and no one knew the extent of her writing until after her death when her sister, Lavinia, discovered almost 1,800 poems tucked away in a drawer.
This book was organized by the seasons of the year, and included descriptions of the plants that were grown in Emily’s garden each season, and poems that were inspired by those plants or by the season. A lovely combination! The author, Marta McDowell, is herself a gardener, so she lovingly included how-to information and special tips for other gardeners.
The mix of very interesting biography, descriptions of Emily Dickinson’s gardens with beautiful poetry interspersed, and very helpful gardening advice made the book a pleasure to read and a wonderful learning experience.
The beautiful illustrations below are by Tasha Tudor from Emily Dickinson: A Brighter Garden.
Tasha Tudor’s illustrations from A Brighter Garden.