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Thursday, April 11, 2013



And this is about another Poems-For-All booklet from the generous gift of curator Richard Hansen! This is I'M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU?, one of the most famous poems by Emily Dickinson.

Here is the front cover:

This is an effectively-designed book, in part because the partially blinded women extend to the back cover:

You open to the title page:

You turn the page to the poem:

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you--Nobody--too?
Then there's a pair of us?
Don't tell! they'd advertise--you know!
How dreary--to be--Somebody!
How public--like a Frog--
To tell one's name--the livelong June--
To an admiring Bog!

You turn the page to some background information as to how this booklet was created:

In case you can't read the above image, it says that the booklet was

"Published on the occasion of the Academy of American Poets' Poem in your Pocket Day, April 17th, 2009.  The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 17th."
Much has been said about this poem, one of the most popular by Emily Dickinson (for example, HERE).  I don't need to add to the analysis per se -- but for purpose of "shelving" the booklet on a mini-chair, I choose to focus on its very compelling first line: I'm Nobody! Who are you?

I focus on that line because I will "shelve" this booklet on the Sewing Chair.  If you recall from this post, I associate this chair with Mom who often stitched various items for me (I have one memory of her on her knees with pins in her mouth stitching a hem on my very first long dress for a high school dance; I remember looking down on her and noticing how her hair was thinning -- a detail that unnerved me as it may be my first consciousness that Mom was aging, thus mortal ... a detail so unnerving that it would pop up unexpectedly in a poem I'd write decades later...but I digress).

Anyway, when my father died, Mom moved into our house and I was blessed to live with her for six years.  During that time, she witnessed my daily lifestyle as a writer.  She was so proud of me ... such that she often described herself to friends and acquaintances as "Eileen's Mom -- the goose who laid the Golden Egg."

While appreciating her support, I was always a tad disturbed (though never told her) about her description of herself.  I thought Mom was more than just my mother and deserved respect as such: she was an effective teacher (just the other week I heard yet again from one of her students about 50 years ago about what a great teacher she was), a beloved member of her church and community, a well-respected elder in the clan ... I could go on. But within my household, it seemed that she was just a retired woman who loved her family (which by itself is a lot since I know the hard way that loving one's family can't be taken for granted).

Fortunately, we were able to see Mom's book, DAWAC, released before her death (it came out two months before she died).  That's yet another major achievement by Mom: a first book at age 82!  And so in one of our last phone conversations together, I was able to tell her -- in a way that she understood deeply -- how proud I was of her but specifically articulate my pride by saying:

"Mom, you know how you always say you're the goose who laid the Golden Egg?  What I want to say to you, Mom, is that YOU are the Golden Egg."

It was a moment -- a way of articulation -- whose significance only she and I could really understand.  I believe she was crying (happy tears!) as she replied simply on the phone, "Yes. I hear you."

Here is the book I am recalling

even as I shelve Emily Dickinson's I'M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU? on Mom's mini-sewing chair:

We opened our eyes, Mom. You, were, the Golden Egg ...

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