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I have both of these books. I’ve had the one on the right — The Complete Poems — for many years (I don’t even remember when/where I got it), but I just bought the one on the left — Final Harvest — last week at Half Price Books. Final Harvest is sort of “the best of” version. I thought I might carry it with me on vacation. I may still, BUT….I’m doing something different.

After I had my boyfriend reach on a tall shelf to bring down The Complete Poems for me, I decided to start at the beginning and read one per day, putting a check mark beside it as I read it.

But first….

Interestingly, at some time, I put a sticky note on page 171 near poem 361. Yes, I know my volume is damaged. I don’t care. I love it anyhow.


Generally when I put sticky notes in books, I put it directly ABOVE whatever I’m marking. Number 361 looks like something I’d mark, but…so does number 360, particularly at more melancholy times in my life. So I don’t know which I was marking. At any rate, this morning I read both aloud and put check marks. It seemed a good place to start.

BTW, I suggest reading poems aloud. Many argue that they’re MEANT to be read aloud. It works best for me, and I recommend it. I first read a poem silently, then read it aloud, then read it silently again.

Number 361:

What I can do — I will —
Though it be little as a Daffodil —
That I cannot — must be
Unknown to possibility —

Number 360:

Death sets a Thing significant
The Eye had hurried by
Except a perished Creature
Entreat us tenderly

To ponder little Workmanships
In Crayon, or in Wool,
With “This was last Her fingers did” —
Industrious until —

The Thimble weighed too heavy —
The stitches stopped — by themselves —
And then ’twas put among the Dust
Upon the Closet shelves —

A Book I have — a friend gave —
Whose Pencil — here and there —
Had notched the place that pleased Him —
At Rest — His fingers are —

Now — when I read — I read not —
For interrupting Tears —
Obliterate the Etchings
Too Costly for Repairs.

Now, after reading those two and checking them, I’ll go back to the very beginning of the book. I’ll mostly go in order. Just cuz….well. Orderly.

I’ll try to update this as I read, and as time allows put them on my other lit sites: Literary Quotes and 15 Minute Classics (don’t count on getting a lot of updates from me — I’m busy, as you guys know). And maybe at some point, I’ll do a piece about the experience for our newer book site (we’re hella proud of it!) AmReading.com. But I did want to share what I’m doing this project. Maybe it’ll inspire someone else to pick up something they’ve been wanting to read and do the same!

What I’m doing is keeping the book on my desk and every morning — before the noise starts — with my first cup of coffee, and before even looking at my computer screen, reading a poem. Maybe I’ll read two per day occasionally just because I won’t be able to resist, but my goal is to do ONE, and put the check AND the date that I read it, and really ponder it.

And then I’ll get to the noise. Work. Social media, which for me, of course, is also work. People. Kids. Cats. Dogs. Boyfriend. Attorneys. Website problems. Plumbing problems. Noise, need, noise, need, noise, need. But the first official five minutes of my day, alone with an Emily Dickinson poem and a cup of coffee.

Speaking of noise, this was written in the Final Harvest book I bought at Half Price Books last week:


Transcribed, the first note is a quote from Middlemarch by George Eliot:

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

And the second , from Emily Dickinson, a University of Minnesota Pamphlet on American Writers by Denis Donoghue:

“[This is to say that Emily Dickinson uses a] plebeian language with a patrician imagination; [willingly, with the commitment of knowledge.]”

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