Into Deep Eternity

An introduction to Emily Dickinson
Book cover: 'Into Deep Eternity: An introduction to Emily Dickinson'
Martha O'Keefe
Hedge School
Number of pages: 
111 pages
Grade / Age level: 
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This volume contains two books "Emily's Book" and "Mary's Book" - both written for relatives of the author who were interested in learning more about Emily Dickinson. Martha O'Keefe has been studying Emily Dickinson and learning to love her and her works for sixty years. She has also written a 400 page work comparing Emily Dickinson with St. John of the Cross.

The first, "Emily's Book", was written for the author's niece as a gift for her 13th birthday. Naturally, this is an excellent place for young people to start understanding Emily Dickinson and perhaps get their first taste of "real poetry." Even as an adult poetry neophyte, I found this book both helpful and enjoyable. It consists mostly of examples of Dickinson's poetry along with the author's paraphrases of what they mean. The introduction provides some helpful general hints for understanding poetry.

Why study Emily Dickinson? The author explains in the Introduction: "One of the first traits that these poems reveal is the great love the poet had for God's creation. Many people in Emily Dickinson's time ... thought that it might be more noble to 'turn away from the world.' She wouldn't do it. She loved what God had made. I think the love was a great part of the strength and holiness of this poet. She loved life and she loved beauty, but she also knew a great deal of sadness, both in her own life and in the lives of the people who were all around her. She doesn't turn aawy from the problem. It is a part of many of her poems. She faced the sadness and also the many mysteries of life with courage. The world is full of mystery and wonder, and she pondered it all." (Emily's Book, pg. 1)

The second half, "Mary's Book", was written for the author's sister-in-law and other relatives who had asked her to share her love of Emily Dickinson. Because it was written for a mature audience, it is, naturally, more complex than "Emily's Book". In addition to sampling her poetry with helpful explanations and paraphrasings, Martha O'Keefe provides many insights into Emily Dickinson's life, faith, intellect and influences upon her work. It is really lovely to read these passages from an author who at one point describes Emily Dickinson as "my poet". Here is one sample of the poetry...

A poor - torn heart - a tattered heart -
That sat it down to rest -
Nor noticed that the Ebbing Day
Flowed silver to the West -
Nor noticed Night did soft descend -
Nor Constellation burn -
Intent upon the vision
Of latitudes unknown.

The angels - happening that way
This dusty heart espied -
Tenderly took it up from toil
And carried it to God -
There - sandals for the Barefoot -
There - gathered from the gales -
Do the blue havens by the hand
Lead the wandering Sails. (Emily Dickinson, P78)

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