Review of I Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems
I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems, by J.R. Solonche, is an absolute delight. I have read it more than three times. To do it justice, I’d want to quote liberally from the many priceless jewels—entries found in books, newspapers, field guides, menus, things read in bathrooms, overheard in museums—but I’m certainly not going to do that.
Often the pleasure in the found poem lies in the ridicule it carries, the smug joy of the reader in the crazy obtuseness of the anonymous source. Here this is hardly the case. Even Donald Rumsfeld’s “Known knowns . . .” rises a bit above ridicule, it being probably the smartest thing he ever said.
The opening find is from the index of Dickinson’s collected poems (Johnson). It lists alphabetically the first lines of poems that begin with “I,” the first one being “I am afraid to own a body.” These entries are arranged in quatrains, ending with a couplet. One hundred and forty-two lines later we read, “I years had been from home.” This is more than a trick; it is something on the order of a portrait of Emily Dickinson.
The last entry in this wonderful collection lists vocabulary books on sale at Barnes & Noble, so the last line is “Word power made easy.” Perfect.
Sally Fisher’s latest publication is Good Question, a book of poems from Bright Hill Press
Source: Descent & Other Poems receives 2017 Luschei Prize Honorable Mention
Descent & Other Poems also was listed as a favorite on LitHub.
Sarah White is also the author of Wars Don’t Happen Anymore (Deerbrook Editions, 2015) reviewed in American Book Review
This is honestly one of the best and most enjoyable books of poetry I’ve ever read
— Michael Meyerhofer on February 13, 2017
As someone who cut his teeth on “eastern” verse, I’m no stranger to shorter poems. I’ve often heard it said that less time on stage means less can go wrong, i.e. shorter poems are somehow easier to write–an idea that I’ve always found ridiculous. With shorter poetry, there’s actually a lot more riding on every word, every syllable. But J.R. Solonche is more than up to the challenge. In this book, Solonche is sharing a lifetime of wit and experience, a whole library of bittersweet moments and insights–and all of it, free of pretension.
I can’t stress this enough: this is honestly one of the best and most enjoyable books of poetry I’ve ever read, and I’ve read thousands. This is also the rare sort of book that you could hand either to a factory worker or a gilded academic and both would be left speechless. The playfulness, humor, and accessibility of these poems blend so perfectly with the underlying brilliance and craft that these poems seem effortless, though they’re anything but. As I was reading this, I kept asking myself, “How is this poem NOT being taught in classrooms all around the world? And what about that one? And this one? And that one?!”
I used to teach a class on Zen poetry, where we frequently read stuff by the ancient Chinese poets, as well as contemporaries like Billy Collins, Kenneth Rexroth, etc. I wish I were still teaching that class because I can guarantee that this book would be a class favorite. It’s certainly a favorite of mine.