02 March 2015

Envelope Poems

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was an American poet. She lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life. Most of her friendship was therefore carried out by correspondence.

After her death, Lavinia (Dickinson's younger sister) kept her promise and burned most of the poet's correspondence. Luckily, she had left no instructions about her 40 notebooks filled with poems. So most of Dickinson's work was published posthumously.

In the mid-1990s, while examining Dickinson material, the literary historian Marta L. Werner came across a small collage cut from recycled envelopes and covered with Dickinson's handwriting. After a search for similar items, she found dozens of semi-intact envelopes, fragments and scraps that showed sentences or entire poems pencil-written by Dickinson. So a good way to reuse the plain envelopes we get!

All the 52 envelope poems have been gathered into a book: Emily Dickinson: The Gorgous Nothings, published by New Directions and Christine Burgin.

More information in this article.


  1. Amazing that these envelopes have been found so much time later!
    And amazing to know that also in the 19th century artists thought to recycle materials for their art (in her case, writing).

    Thank you for sharing, interesting info! (Even though I don't get/understand what she has written on the envelopes shown)

    1. I don't understand it either, but the whole idea is wonderful.


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