Every now and again, a book pushes through the muck of contemporary publishing and takes flight. So it is with The Gorgeous Nothings, a book that liberates the exquisite, intricate and at times unbearably painful envelope-writings of Emily Dickinson from the shadowlands of academic specialists. As lovers of ED since early days, we knew the envelope fragments existed, and we even knew a few lines from them; intuitively, perhaps, we even sensed their importance and autonomy as literary objects, clogged only with music. Yet oh my, how we welcome their precise documentation and decipherment here.
Both editors of this magnificent and essential book – Jen Bervin and Marta Werner – are to be commended for the richly adventurous poetic, visual and literary journey they have prepared for readers. We were particularly taken by the essay contributed by Werner, whose writing perfectly embodies the rare qualities that are present in the strange texts themselves. Werner unfolds her thoughts with the sort of bravely speculative and gracious erudition that we do not often associate with our times; and it is this free, unbound spirit that allows her to unseal the mysterious intimacies of the envelopes, joining them in flight. Below, we excerpt (with permission) her final section, with a focus on the envelope-writing identified in the archive as A 821: