My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun (Little Black Classics #114) – Emily Dickinson


Published March 3rd 2016 by Penguin Classics
Author: Emily Dickinson
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 64
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️
Opening line:

“A wounded deer leaps highest,
I’ve heard the hunter tell;
‘Tis but the ecstasy of death,
And then the brake is still.”

Goodreads synopsis:

‘It’s coming – the postponeless Creature’. This title features electrifying poems of isolation, beauty, death and eternity from a reclusive genius and one of America’s greatest writers. It is one of 46 new books in the bestselling Little Black Classics series, to celebrate the first ever Penguin Classic in 1946. Each book gives readers a taste of the Classics’ huge range and diversity, with works from around the world and across the centuries – including fables, decadence, heartbreak, tall tales, satire, ghosts, battles and elephants.

I bought this collection because I’ve never properly read Emily Dickinson before and I wanted to give her poetry a go without having to commit myself to a large collection.

These Penguin Classics are good if you want to dip into a writer and see if you like what you get, and this one left my quite disappointed.

I’ve heard good things about Emily Dickinson, and I’ve read a few poems in anthologies that  enjoyed, so I thought that this collection would seal her fate as a favourite poet, or at least one that I want to return to.

It isn’t so much the poems aren’t worth reading, it’s a combination of this collection, the way it is presented and the poems that have been chosen.

Firstly, the poems aren’t titled. They are listed in the contents page by their first line, and when reading through the book this can be confusing because without having the contents next to me the whole time, I don’t know where a poem begins or ends.

In terms of craft, the style of poem varies between rhyming and not rhyming, which made my reading experience feel inconsistent, and I didn’t enjoy the poems half as much as I could’ve.

Some of the lines and poems in this collection did connect with me, but I ended up switching off whilst reading, and not taking the words in. I had to re-read some of them because I wasn’t concentrating and it often felt like after my initial disappointment I was reading for the sake of finishing the book.

I doubt this will put me off reading more Emily Dickinson in future, and I think the work presented in this collection isn’t her best. It’s not one for a first time reader, it’s more for someone who has an already established love for Dickinson and wants another book to add to their collection.

Link to the book on Goodreads: My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun



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