A.S. Byatt's Bookshelf
Edited by R.W. Franklin
No one could have imagined Emily Dickinson if she had not existed—a very great poet, rarely published in her lifetime, a quiet spinster quietly constructing a large body of completely original work using the rhythms of 19th-century hymns. She faced death and loss steadily: "Parting is all we know of heaven, / And all we need of hell." She made us see spiders and birds as we never would have. She considered the nature of eternity. She was uncompromising. It is because of her, I believe, that America has so many good women poets. She freed their voices. When I was writing Possession I read and reread her. She was tough and true and entirely herself. You can't imitate her, but you can learn from her.