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This is one of the wisest books I've read in years... —New York Times Book ReviewNo writer I know of comes close to even trying to articulate the weird magic of poetry as Ruefle does. She acknowledges and celebrates in the odd mystery and mysticism of the act—the fact that poetry must both guard and reveal, hint at and pull back... Also, and maybe most crucially, Ruefle’sThis is one of the wisest books I've read in years... —New York Times Book ReviewNo writer I know of comes close to even trying to articulate the weird magic of poetry as Ruefle does. She acknowledges and celebrates in the odd mystery and mysticism of the act—the fact that poetry must both guard and reveal, hint at and pull back... Also, and maybe most crucially, Ruefle’s work is never once stuffy or overdone: she writes this stuff with a level of seriousness-as-play that’s vital and welcome, that doesn’t make writing poetry sound anything but wild, strange, life-enlargening fun. -The Kenyon ReviewProfound, unpredictable, charming, and outright funny...These informal talks have far more staying power and verve than most of their kind. Readers may come away dazzled, as well as amused... —Publishers WeeklyThis is a book not just for poets but for anyone interested in the human heart, the inner-life, the breath exhaling a completion of an idea that will make you feel changed in some way. This is a desert island book. —Matthew DickmanThe accomplished poet is humorous and self-deprecating in this collection of illuminating essays on poetry, aesthetics and literature... —San Francisco ExaminerOver the course of fifteen years, Mary Ruefle delivered a lecture every six months to a group of poetry graduate students. Collected here for the first time, these lectures include "Poetry and the Moon," "Someone Reading a Book Is a Sign of Order in the World," and "Lectures I Will Never Give." Intellectually virtuosic, instructive, and experiential, Madness, Rack, and Honey resists definition, demanding instead an utter—and utterly pleasurable—immersion. Finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award.Mary Ruefle has published more than a dozen books of poetry, prose, and erasures. She lives in Vermont....

Title : Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
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ISBN : 9781933517575
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 326 Pages
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Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures Reviews

  • Jay
    2018-12-09 18:06

    Currently reading forever.Date I finished this book: upon my death.

  • Jason Koo
    2018-11-11 17:14

    I'm 73 pages into this book and fuck if it isn't already one of the greatest books of my life.

  • C
    2018-12-02 15:06

    Reread in August 2017: Still the best. Original review: What IS this book?? It's like a Mary Poppins bag full of treasures--you just keep pulling out more beauty with every page, with every re-read. Even though I have been to enough boring and pretentious lectures on poetry to fully appreciate these insightful, messy, gorgeous pieces, I don't think being interested in poetry is a prerequisite to reading this book. Highly, highly recommended.

  • Mike Lindgren
    2018-12-01 14:28

    Mary Ruefle’s dazzling and idiosyncratic Madness, Rack, and Honey is the freshest and most startling piece of criticism I have read in a long time. The book is billed as “collected lectures,” with titles such as “Poetry and the Moon” and “On Fear,” but they have about as much in common with the standard academic lecture as spicy homemade salsa does with ketchup. Ruefle’s voice is rangy and intellectually supple, capable of conjuring with the knottiest questions of identity and narrative in one breath and then swooping to the personal or lyrical in the next. Especially tonic is the author’s impatience with stodgy, unquestioned verities or lazy thinking in general; at times, she bristles with exasperation. About Emily Dickinson, she writes, “I would no more tell you about my relationship with her poems than I would tell you about a love affair. If she is yours, I hope you feel the same way,” a critical tactic I am not sure I have ever encountered before but that I find delightful. From the Washington Post, February 20, 2013

  • Haley
    2018-11-30 13:11

    If you're interested in poetry criticism, then I think this book has a lot to offer. Ruefle made me reflect on what I'm getting out of poetry, and how I might expand my experience of poetry - I definitely think that I will be able to use this collection to become a better poetry reader. If you have absolutely zero interest in poetry (or criticism) then this is definitely not the work for you. She writes consistently about language, and the connection of language and what that connection means. Here's a taster, which is representative of a good chunk of the collection:And I am at once struck by what a perfect example the poem is regarding metaphor as event. Metaphor as time, the time it takes for an exchange of energy to occur. Metaphor is not, and never has been, a mere literary term. It is an event. A poem must rival a physical experience and metaphor is, simply, an exchange of energy between two things. If you believe that metaphor is an event, and not just a literary term denoting comparison, then you must conclude that a certain philosophy arises: the philosophy that everything in the world is connected.My favorite lecture by far was "My Emily Dickinson", in which she uses Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte and Anne Frank to talk about what it means to experience the world. The progression of this lecture is so perfect I don't want to mention anything else about it, for fear of spoiling the surprise. The rest were mostly interesting, with a few bright spots. I disliked the "Twenty-Two Short Lectures" - they honestly felt like Lydia Davis stories, only less endearing in this non-fiction setting. Overall, I think this evens out somewhere into 3-stars, though I did think it was genuinely interesting and worth reading. (As a footnote, I absolutely love the prose-poetry I've read from Ruefle, and I would strongly recommend her collection My Private Property)

  • Abby
    2018-11-27 16:09

    “I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, ‘I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say;’ but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.”With deep gratitude for Celeste for lending me her much-loved copy. Such a gorgeous collection of writing on poetry, meaning, and inspiration! I had not heard of Mary Ruefle until someone told me I had to read her and that this series of lectures was particularly excellent (fun fact: It’s the highest-rated book on my to-read shelf). I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. This is particularly excellent. Ruefle’s style combines many of my favorite elements in an essayist: mystical asides, plenty of literary allusions, mini-anecdotes, snippets of history and fact. Can’t get enough.Her lecture on reading (“Someone Reading a Book Is a Sign of Order in the World”) had me in total raptures. I started writing down quotes from it and then slowly realized that I was just copying the entire piece verbatim. (We read Proust in the exact same way—one volume a year, in our twenties, because an older man told us it was the only thing that mattered—I feel that we might be soulmates, Mary and me!) I also loved her joint lecture on Emily Dickinson, Emily Brontë, and Anne Frank; her meditation on fear; her lecture about theme and sentimentality; an exposition of the irreverence of art. Read it; savor it; thank God we have poets such as these. (Also, I think I have to buy this book now.)“Did I mention supreme joy? That is why I read: I want everything to be okay. That’s why I read when I was a lonely kid and that’s why I read now that I’m a scared adult. It’s a sincere desire, but a sincere desire always complicated things—the universe has a peculiar reaction to our sincere desires. Still, I believe the planet on the table, even when wounded and imperfect, fragmented and deprived, is worthy of being called whole. Our minds and the universe—what else is there?”

  • Dc
    2018-12-10 16:01

    after i finished reading this book, i looked up and said, "i have found the book that i will take to the You Can Only Have One Book On This Island, island.i want to eat this book so the pages wrap around my bones and the ink leaks into my blood.i don't know where mary ruefle lives, how old she is, or anything about her but i want to find her, andfollow her around and carry her books and throw my jacket over a puddle so her smart, smart shoes don't get muddy.i will read this book again and again.

  • Charles Finch
    2018-12-08 17:27

    One of the best books I've ever read. Hard to say if non-writers will respond quite as strongly as I did (a lot of it is about writing and its peculiarities) but I feel sure any intelligent reader will be overwhelmed by its wisdom, sense of humor, humility, penetration, etc

  • Owen Curtsinger
    2018-11-30 19:21

    Ruefle's got a creative and perceptive mind, of course, and this book is like a barrage of insightful arrows from that mind. Sometimes the arrows are too fluffy, aloof, and self-involved, getting caught up in crosswinds and becoming lost in the atmosphere of my attention span, but many hit the mark straight and true. Here's my favorite so far:"We are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love -- a connection between things. This arcane bit of knowledge is respoken every day into the ears of readers of great books, and also appears to perpetually slip under a carpet, utterly forgotten. In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single life span, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again, to watch the great personal psyche spar with it, to suffer affliction and weakness and injury, to die and watch those you love die, until the very dizziness of it all becomes the source of compassion for ourselves, and for the language which we alone created, without which the letter that slipped under the door could never have been written, or, once in a thousand lives--is that too much to ask?--retrieved, and read. Did I mention supreme joy? That is why I read: I want everything to be okay. That's why I read when I was a lonely kid and that's why I read now that I'm a scared adult. It's a sincere desire, but sincere desire always complicates things--the universe has a peculiar reaction to our sincere desires. Still, I believe the planet on the table, even when it is wounded and imperfect, fragmented and deprived, is worthy of being called whole. Our minds and the universe--what else is there? Margaret Mead described intellectuals as those who are bored when they don't have the chance to talk interestingly enough. Now a book will talk interestingly to you. George Steiner describes the intellectual as one who can't read without a pencil in her hand. One who wants to talk back to the book, not take notes but make them: one who might write, "The giraffe speaks!" in the margin. In our marginal existence, what else is there but this voice within us, this great weirdness we are always leaning forward to listen to?"

  • Kevin Fanning
    2018-12-03 20:08

    "I want to write but I don't know what to write about."This is common thing, right? We've all been there. Maybe a lot of us are there right now!!! Sometimes, you wait around and an answer, an idea, presents itself, phew, and you write. Sometimes you just watch an entire season of New Girl on Netflix. S2 is underrated imo.What I love and find so inspiring about this book is that it was born out of that Not Knowing What To Write. Ruefle had to give some lectures. In order to give those lectures she had to write them. In order to write them she had to decide what to write about. And being caught between needing to deliver these lectures and having no clue what to even write about, she did the only thing she could: she started writing.So she wrote, she her way into and through the lectures, and the topics are somewhat random, and she pulls these different threads and ideas and quotes together from different parts of her brain, and woved them into these odd but lovely lectures, that really exist somewhere between essay and poetry and storytelling--like the original storytelling, the oral tradition, when delivery mattered and you had to just sit there with "Oh my god where is this going" plastered all over your face.Obviously, Ruefle is amazing at what she does and you or I can start and maybe will start at the same place and end up with a bunch of nonsense, nowhere near as elegant as what she created here. But the point is she started. And you started. There is no I don't know what to write about. It starts anywhere, a word, a phrase, an idea, a quote, an image. The trick is to start, and then the trick is to not be afraid of where it takes you, once you start. Good book.

  • Ben Loory
    2018-11-20 13:07

    i've been reading this and ruefle's Selected Poems nonstop for about three months now, i just open one or the other at random and read a bit each night before i go to bed. sometimes i read a bit i've already read before and sometimes it is a new bit. but whether i have read it before or not it is always surprising and beautiful and perfect and fun. and usually heartbreaking too. i can't really say that i understand what ruelfe's doing but i sure do love it a lot.

  • Stephen
    2018-12-11 14:14

    Ostensibly, Mary Ruefle's lectures are about poetry. What they're really about is being alive to wonder and vulnerable to curiosity--an openness of being that often manifests itself in the poet, but that is not necessarily limited to poets. As such, these lectures (essays, really) are digressive and full of cul-de-sacs, meandering through a landscape strewn with the wisdom of poets, which is a type of wisdom we would do well to heed. Ruefle does not draw many conclusions, other than than in the vaguest way; therein lies her charm (her sense of humor helps, too). [1st read in August 2012. Reread in November 2013.]

  • Amorak Huey
    2018-11-29 16:02

    I will never not be reading this book. It's inspiring. As a writer and as a teacher, I need this book and will always need it.

  • Margaret
    2018-11-20 19:06

    Superb series of poetic lectures/essays on poetry, literature, reading, theme, and Emily Dickinson. I would have underlined whole pages if I hadn't borrowed the book from a friend.

  • Jim Coughenour
    2018-11-30 14:59

    If you married the sharp sensibility, intelligence and humor of Maureen McLane's My Poets with Howard Nemerov's elegant Figures of Thought, you'd get something (at least in my imagination) like Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey. Reufle's new book has been my favorite café reading over the past couple weeks and probably the most fun I've had reading a book since, well, My Poets.This book is apparently a bunch of lectures. "Lectures for me are bad dreams," she writes, but most of these begin with a pop that merrily echoes her name:I don't know where to begin because I have nothing to say, yet I know that before too long I will sound as if I'm on a crusade.Nobody wants his grave spray-painted and then vomited on…I suppose, as a poet, among my fears can be counted the deep-seated uneasiness that one day it will be revealed that I consecrated my life to an imbecility.The first lecture is entitled "Poetry and the Moon" and it's a beauty. "The moon is the very image of silence," she says, then quotes Simic, "The great lunacy of most lyric poems is that they attempt to use words to convey what cannot be put into words." Which is I suppose the whole point of poems and why poets go crazy.* Toward the end of the book, Ruefle says, "I remember, on the first Tuesday of every year, that I became a poet for a single, simple reason: I liked making similes for the moon." This from a composition in the form of anaphora, which for me recalls Joe Brainard's I Remember, but for Ruefle echoes (these lectures are full of echoes) Philip Larkin's I Remember, I Remember, which concludes "Nothing, like something, happens anywhere."Memory, poetry, lunacy – or madness, rack, and honey.The book isn't perfect.** Sometimes it's playfully stupid.April is the cruelest month.The secret of poetry is cruelty.Really? With so many secrets to tell, I doubt that's The One. Later she writes, "Even a bitter poem is a small act of affirmation." (See Larkin above.)The lapses are few and forgivable. At its core is the passion of reading itself. In the chapter with the splendid title "Someone Reading A Book Is A Sign Of Order In The World" (echoes of Wallace Stevens), Ruefle remarksIn one sense, reading is a waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single life span, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again, to watch the personal psyche spar with it, to suffer affliction and weakness and injury, to die and watch those you love die, until the very dizziness of it all becomes a source of compassion for ourselves, and for the language which we alone created, without which the letter that slipped under the door could never have been written, or, once in a thousand lives — is that too much to ask? — retrieved, and read. Did I mention supreme joy?Yes, Mary, you did – on every page.___________________________________* "According to the research of Arnold Ludwig, among all persons of all professions mental disorders appear most among artists. Among all artists, mental disorders appear most among writers. Among all writers, mental disorders appear most among poets." (306)** The weakest essay, ironically, is "My Emily Dickinson" which echoes not only McLane's book (unintentionally) but (intentionally) the one by Susan Howe. (Maybe I've just had it with Emily Dickinson. And Anne Frank, who's hiding in this essay as well.)At its worst it includes a Gorey-esque sketch of Emily's trademark white dress; at its best it includes the full citation of "Taking Off Emily's Dickinson's Clothes" by Billy Collins, a poem that makes both of us retch. For Ruefle, the import of the smarmy Collins poem is pretty simple: "Rape: to take away by force."

  • Scott Wilson
    2018-11-23 14:01

    This is my new favorite "poets are people, too" book, a collection of lectures that's very approachable without sacrificing erudition. It turns far less on poetry than on staking one's own claim to anything one chooses to read -- as long as one has chosen to read deeply. Whatever these words sounded like when spoken in a seminar, on the page they read like comforting marginalia, short and piercing reactions to literature and to how we take it in. Thanks to the magic of someone else's obsessive Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/mary%20r...), here's what I mean:“We are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love - a connection between things. This arcane bit of knowledge is respoken every day into the ears of readers of great books, and also appears to perpetually slip under a carpet, utterly forgotten. In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again, to watch the great personal psyche spar with it, to suffer affliction and weakness and injury, to die and watch those you love die, until the very dizziness of it all becomes a source of compassion for ourselves, and our language, which we alone created, and without which the letter that slipped under the door could never have been written, or, once in a thousand lives - is that too much to ask? - retrieved, and read. Did I mention supreme joy? That is why I read: I want everything to be okay. That’s why I read when I was a lonely kid and that’s why I read now that I’m a scared adult. It’s a sincere desire, but a sincere desire always complicates things - the universe has a peculiar reaction to our sincere desires. Still, I believe the planet on the table, even when wounded and imperfect, fragmented and deprived, is worthy of being called whole. Our minds and the universe - what else is there? Margaret Mead described intellectuals as those who are bored when they don’t have the chance to talk interestingly enough. Now a book will talk interestingly to you. George Steiner describes the intellectual as one who can’t read without a pencil in her hand. One who wants to talk back to the book, not take notes but make them: one who might write 'The giraffe speaks!' in the margin. In our marginal existence, what else is there but this voice within us, this great weirdness we are always leaning forward to listen to?” Yeah. Yeah!

  • Jesse De Angelis
    2018-12-02 16:03

    This is my favorite book of 2012, and while the year's not over yet, I am 100% sure that's not going to change. All of the lectures here are incredibly entertaining, beautiful, and inspiring. They are also often very funny, and sometimes they can be quite sad. Tonally, they share a lot with Ruefle's poetry, so if you like that, you'll certainly like this too. Before I started the collection, I was expecting that it would be like nearly all the books of non-fiction that poets publish: either a list of what they perceive the rules of poetry to be, or else a very close reading of a handful of poems that are meaningful to them. So often, these books end up feeling like textbooks - sometimes very pleasant and useful ones - but they are seldom the kind of thing that you would read simply for the joy of it. While all the lectures in the book discuss poetry, often poetry is used as a lens through which another subject is examined. In this way, the lectures are a lot like poetry themselves. Reading a lecture on the moon, I learned much more about the moon than I did about poetry.The individual lectures presented in the collection were all wonderful reads, but part of the fun of the collection was watching Ruefle's voice and ideas evolve over the years. The lectures start out looking and sounding the way that we expect lectures to, but end up becoming more and more fragmentary, both in content and in form. The penultimate lecture in the book is titled "Twenty-Two Short Lectures," and two of these lectures do a great job of encapsulating everything that's wonderful about this collection. Here they are:Why All of Our Literary Pursuits are UselessEighty- five percent of all existing species are beetles and various forms of insects.English is spoken by only 5 percent of the world's population.Why There May be HopeOne of the greatest stories ever written is the story of a man who wakes to find himself transformed into a giant beetle.

  • TinHouseBooks
    2018-12-10 20:11

    Matthew Dickman (Poetry Editor): The other day I was having a conversation with a friend who feels that the most human she ever feels is when watching Antonioni films. His art makes her feel brave and hopeful and complicated and found. I was thinking of art that makes me feel that way too. The first thing that came to mind was Mary Ruefle’s book Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures. This is a book of lectures by an incredible poet though the lectures are more than talks on poetry: they are talks about humanity. Whenever I read one of Mary’s pieces I feel better about being alive, wiser and kinder…at least for a few hours! Even if you are not a poetry reader you need to check this book out! And if you’re interested (and you should be) we at Tin House are honored to have two poems by Mary in our Winter Reading issue (2012). Madness! The Rack! Sweet Honey!

  • P
    2018-11-17 14:14

    "The greatest lesson in writing I ever had was given to me in an art class. The drawing instructor took a sheet of paper and held up a pencil. She very lightly put the pencil on the piece of paper and applied a little pressure; by bringing up her hand a little ways in one direction, she left a mark upon the paper. 'That's all there is to it,' she said, 'but it's a miracle. Once there was nothing, and now there's a mark.'"This book is teeming with such profundities.

  • Emmanuel
    2018-11-29 20:10

    after it was over, i didn't know what to do with myself so i just started taking pictures of the book on my bathroom floor, a feeble, superficial attempt at capturing whatever it is this book has done to me

  • Barry Wightman
    2018-12-06 19:25

    If you crossed Patti Smith (shaman rock 'n roller, poet, writer) with Vladimir Nabokov (in his lecturer guise) with Steven Wright (deadpan comic famous for his one liners) you'd have something sort of close to Mary Ruefle. If you're a writer, this book's for you. And judging by the number of dog-eared pages in my copy, which I've been carrying around for weeks, Madness, Rack and Honey is invaluable.At Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she teaches poetry, her lectures have been standing room only for years - they are literary seances, hushed and silent as she communes with our writing spirits. If you write, you need to read this book.

  • Rae
    2018-12-02 21:08

    'Accidental' lectures written in the space poetry is born. One of the most illuminating things I've read, ever. I will forget 95% of the terrain of this collection within six months, I am sure, but I will never forget the absolute feeling of transportation that lives in this prose, and that will bring me back in a state of blissful having-forgottenness to go it again. If "We are all one question, and the best answer seems to be love--a connection between two things" isn't a thesis for a lifetime, I don't know what is, unless it's "A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind."

  • A. Anupama
    2018-11-20 16:16

    I love this, especially "On Fear" and "My Emily Dickinson." I still think it is funny that her practical advice to us students, about to write our graduation lectures, was "17-and-a-half pages, double-spaced," and "you can't fail." I guess that means that this sort of genius and courage only needs a form and faith, which is the opposite of what she actually writes in the content of these lectures! But even that discrepancy isn't a real one--- the humor, passion, and wisdom of her work is a beautiful gift.

  • Sophfronia Scott
    2018-11-24 20:18

    "Now I will give you a piece of advice. I will tell you something that I absolutely believe you should do, and if you do not do it you will never be a writer. It is a certain truth.When your pencil is dull, sharpen it.And when your pencil is sharp, use it until it is dull again."Mary Ruefle is simply sublime and this collection of her written lectures is a treasure. A challenging but enjoyable read.

  • Mara
    2018-11-29 21:23

    Every single necessary word!

  • Regan
    2018-11-18 17:07

    A series of lectures by poet Mary Ruefle about the components of poetry, the titular Madness, Rack, and Honey of it. Like all good poets she is a reluctant lecturer, and like all good lecturers she explains her topic poetically. This reads as a modern-day Letters to a Young Poet.

  • Sigrun Hodne
    2018-11-29 18:11

    Can't remember having read anything better than this in a very long time! Just listen to this: WHY ALL OUR LITERARY PURSUITS ARE USELESSEighty-five percent of all existing species are beetles and various forms of insects.English is spoken by only 5 percent of the world’s population.WHY THERE MAY BE HOPEOne of the greatest stories ever written is the story of a man who wakes to find himself transformed into a giant beetle.¨¨¨Once I wanted to write a lecture on two self-portraits by the German artist Käthe Kollowitz, (…) single self-portraits are not half as interesting as two self-portraits by the same artist painted thirty or forty years apartBut thatRuefle says in the end of her text, after having written a beautiful ekphrasis,is a lecture that has to be lived

  • Susannah
    2018-11-30 19:18

    I read "I Remember, I Remember" quite on accident, in the middle of a Keats bender. (when am I not on a Keats bender?) I figured that anyone who could articulate so beautifully the breath-catching passion I felt about Keats was worth paying attention to. I was right. This book will be a permanent resident on my bedside table. Utterly brilliant and irreverent and just the right amount of italics. I finished it last night in the bathtub, which is where all my best reading happens. After I closed the book, I wept a little, and then opened up to the first essay and started all over again. Sometimes books arrive in our lives precisely when we need them most, which is really one of the most wonderful things about a life measured by books read. There is always the possibility of a new lifelong friend.

  • Matthew Hall
    2018-11-13 17:20

    These lectures are ostensibly about poetry. Ruefle, in introducing them, admits that while her students usually prefer informal talks, she has never been good at extemporizing, so she wrote out her lectures. What followed, however, weren't really lectures so much as thirty page prose poems that explore poetry just as much as they explore creativity, theme, fear, emotions vs. feelings, how to exist, hiding, torture, capitalism, art, loneliness vs. solitude, joy, sorrow and the reading life, all with Ruefle's characteristic absurd humor and aching clarity. This is the kind of book you read stopping every page or so to pound your fingers on the pages at the wit and truth of what she has to say, and your desire to share it with the world.It's January, but this book will haunt me all year, I know it.

  • Cooper Renner
    2018-11-19 21:15

    A very interesting series of lectures on a variety of subject, often touching on poetry in some form or fashion, but not always. Perhaps particularly notable is "My Emily Dickinson," her meditation of Emily D and Emily Bronte.