Thursday, May 16, 2013

Words to Garden By

Today, I took myself on a short field trip to the Solon (Iowa) Public Library, a few miles down a country highway from Iowa City. A small but extraordinary display about Emily Dickinson and her garden had been installed in honor of Poetry Month. Display artist Toni Russo created a 19th century garden vignette, a vision of a corner in Dickinson’s garden and how it may have looked after the poet gardener's absence of a few years. Artifacts hinting of a quiet, mysterious life peeked out of the profusion of bloom. Books faithful to the period, Victorian seed packets, a desk with ghostly ink well and pen poised for the last poem are all in view. Birds, small creatures, and of course flowers punctuate the scene as well. So do a pair of poignantly muddied leather lace-up boots. Dickinson’s portrait engages you from the background, her face urging the viewer to carefully observe and wonder the details of our world, as she did in her own.

Several of my favorite Victorians found gardening important to the thinking process of their “other” vocations. Darwin, Beatrix Potter, and Dickinson all left behind bodies of work nurtured by time spent in their gardens.  

I have this tendency, to be transplanting a peony and all of a sudden a line to a story I’ve been struggling with drops into my head! If I could leave one lily petal, one finch feathers worth of work half as fine as Dickinson’s poetry, I will be content.

As it is Children’s Book Week, I’ll put in a plug for a non-fiction picture book by Jeanette Winter, "Emily Dickinson's Letter to the World", whose work I also adore. Lovely simple words and picture do great homage to a part of Dickinson’s story.

Thank you Solon Library and Ms Russo for sharing Dickinson’s work with this lovely display. 

The library invited people to write their own odes to Emily.
This one was my favorite, the young writer confidently proclaiming her solidarity with a rose.  

No comments:

Blog Archive