It is impossible to know whether Emily Dickinson thrived on or in spite of her self-imposed isolation. She was a woman of interiors, and her inscrutable mind remains fully insulated in spite of extensive scholarship applied to her known body of work. The 1,500 poems discovered in her room after her death were only hinted at by the 7 published in her lifetime. Among her poems are 52 scraps of paper known as the envelop writings and they are indeed, lines scrawled on any paper she could find, as if scarcity combined with urgency had driven her hand to pencil, her creativity released with expediency lest it be lost. We sense her need to quickly get it down.
The Gorgeous Nothings is a wonderful book which reproduces full size images of each of the 52 scraps with helpful (necessary) transcriptions of her written words. To read them is to be immediately challenged because if her full poems are largely inaccessible, her snippets of thought are the opening of a cavern. To see them reproduced in full, life size facsimile is to approach her genius if only by simulated proximity. We see the flames if not the source. They are strangely helpful, because her person emerges. Gazing at her bird-like writing on little scraps of paper, we can almost hold them, almost see her writing them down, almost see her face, searching her expression for hints to aide our interpretations.