Review: Emily Dickinson's God, The Divine Image in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson by John DelliCarpini, Ph.D

Publisher: Olympia, January 1, 2014.
Genre: Non-fiction, Emily Dickinson's view on God.
Format: Paperback
Pages: 143
Rating: 3 Stars for Good.
Source: Free copy from Olympia Publishers in exchange for a review. All reviews expressed are from my own feelings and opinions.

Further information on Emily Dickinson can be found @
Poetry Foundation
Bartleby


Book is available @ Amazon. Not on Kindle.

Summary: 
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson died at age fifty-five in 1886. She never married. She lived in Amherst, Massachusetts. She'd been born into an intellectual family. She had an education at Amherst Academy, and Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary. A small number of Dickinson's poems were published in her life. After her death, her poems became known and praised for their unique style and themes. 
Emily Dickinson's God, explores her life and poetry, especially in regards to her struggles with Calvinism and God. 

My Thoughts:
I have been unsure as to how to write this review, or where to place the review. I have another blog which is for Christian fiction and non-fiction. Emily Dickinson's God is not a Christian book perse, 
But, the word God is used 568 times in 143 pages. This does not include the names: Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord, or Holy Spirit. I chose Impressions In Ink to post the review, because this is the blog the publisher contacted me through. 
I'm also unsure where the exact reading audience will come from. A person who is a beloved fan of Emily Dickinson is going to be drawn to the book. A person who is a Calvinist might be offended by its content in regards to the denomination beliefs expressed in the book. A person who is a Christian might be offended that God's name is used so often, yet the book is not about God. 
The book addresses Emily Dickinson's view and belief system, which she wrestled with most if not all of her life. 
"One's depiction of God, however, or how one portrays him in language or visual representation, is shaped by several factors; parents, education, religious upbringing, personal faith, and temperament are primary catalysts in creating the way in which one sees God. Although the image of God modifies as one matures, the foundation is fixed in childhood." Page 13.
I agree with the above quote, but only to a certain degree. As a child we are greatly influenced by our parents or guardians in most if not all facets of life. As we become an adult we read, learn, study, and shape our own views. I've known women who grew up in a harsh condemning home, their fathers were judgmental and abusive. Their view of God is of a higher power that is also harsh, judgmental, condemning, and abusive. As a Christian I know God is revealed through His Son Jesus Christ. God is not an unknown, nor a hard to understand Spirit who hides from me. He is Jesus, God in the flesh. We know Jesus through His Word and through His Spirit. 
Emily disagreed with any harsh, angry, judgmental, description of God, she focused her attention on a God of love and mercy. As a young woman she parted with Calvinism. At times through her life she wrestled with this choice. At times she felt close to God; at times she felt far away. She picked and chose what attributes of God to focus and believe in, and ignored others; she created her own belief system. She did not have a problem with the Bible itself, but did with "its messengers." She did not understand why God did not reveal a "map to paradise." 
Author, John DelliCarpini, paired very brief stanzas from her poems and measured them against her God. For example she wrote often of death, which I found troubling. To think on life is more pleasant. Death comes to all of us, but don't waste the life we have thinking of death. 
"The inevitability of death haunted Dickinson; she contemplated her mortality everyday with the intensity reserved for the most essential of tasks; 'Good night, because we must' expresses her willingness to die if with death comes resolution. Dickinson was anxious to 'know' heaven, but the mystery eluded her while alive. Since God appeared mute, she concluded that he would speak only after death. Even the angels reveal no secrets; like a child who asks a parent to scold a mischievous sibling, Dickinson futilely entreats God to force the angels to reveal their secrets." Page 57. 
The full poem: 
"Good night, because we must, 
How intricate the dust! 
I would go, to know! 
Oh incognito! Saucy, Saucy Seraph
To elude me so! 
Father! they won't tell me, 
Won't you tell them to?" 

DelliCarpini, explains Dickinson was a "secular mystic." 
"Mystics see their goals discovering and devoting their lives to the real and living God." Page 141. 
Nature was her pathway to God. Through his creation she saw and experienced God. 

I feel the index on the poems explored in the book should be more explanatory and descriptive. I had a difficult time nailing down exactly how to find the poems to further research online. 

The author stated he used the NIV in quoting scripture. I'm not sure which version of NIV. At times it appeared to be more of a summary of the NIV Bible verse. 

It's difficult to write a non-fiction review on a book in which I've nothing to compare. But, I do love her poems, even if I'm not astute in understanding them. I have one Emily Dickinson book of poetry on my shelf, simply titled Poems. 
Some of my favorite poems from the above book are:

With Flowers XXV
"If recollecting were forgetting, 
Then I remember not;
And if forgetting, recollecting,
How near I had forgot!
And if to miss were merry,
And if to mourn were gay,
How very blithe the fingers
That gathered these to-day!" 

XL
"SHE sweeps with many-colored brooms,
And leaves the shreds behind;
Oh, housewife in the evening west,
Come back, and dust the pond!

You dropped a purple ravelling in,
You dropped an amber thread;
And now you've littered all the East
With duds of emerald!

And still she plies her spotted brooms,
And still the aprons fly,
Till brooms fade softly into stars-
And then I come away." 

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