Summer 2014 • Vol. XXXVI No. 3 A SYMPOSIUM ON EMILY DICKINSON |

Thresholds

Emily Dickinson entered into this world on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts, and died in the same town, in the family homestead, "quite suddenly" as her friend Clara Newman Turner wrote, on May 15, 1886. She was fifty-five years old. Her doctor listed the cause as Bright's disease (what we now call nephritis or kidney failure) and its duration as two and a half years. Already Clara Newman Turner's "quite suddenly" is one of countless misrepresentations we find about Emily Dickinson. In 1885 Dickinson wrote that she saw "a great darkness coming" and fainted while baking in the kitchen. On November 30, 1885, her weakness was so worrying that her brother, Austin, canceled a trip to Boston. She spent the next months in bed. The last thing she wrote was that famous haiku-like note to the Norcross sisters: "Little Cousins, Called Back. Emily." Austin remembered in his diary that "the day was awful … she ceased to breathe that terrible breathing just before the whistle sounde

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David Baker is the author or editor of many books of poetry and criticism. His latest collection of poems, Whale Fall, was published by W. W. Norton in July 2022. Baker taught at Kenyon 1983–84 and began a long association with The Kenyon Review then, including service for more than twenty-five years as poetry editor. He continues to curate the magazine’s annual environmental feature, “Nature’s Nature.” Baker is emeritus professor of English at Denison University, in Granville, Ohio, where he offers two classes each spring semester.

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Nature’s Nature

By David Baker

Emily Dickinson entered into this world on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts, and died in the same town, in the family homestead, "quite suddenly" as her friend Clara Newman […]

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