Somewhere Among

Numbering Dickinson, Knowing Stevenson

Emily Dickinson did not number her poems. She didn’t give them titles.

My college anthology of American literature (1978) presented her work using Thomas H. Johnson’s numbering notations in his 1955 edition, The Poems of Emily Dickinson. He used a J. plus a number.

The Academy of American Poets uses the first line and a number for the Dickinson poem mentioned in Somewhere Among;  “There is a certain slant of light” # 258. The Poetry Foundation uses the first line as a title and (320). Other anthologies use combinations or variations of the title, number and  J. 

Mom and Nana in Somewhere Among had an anthology that used Johnson’s numbering. If you google Emily Dickinson 258 you will find the poem:

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons -
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes – 

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us – 
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are – 

None may teach it – Any – 
‘Tis the Seal Despair – 
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air – 

When it comes, the Landscape listens – 
Shadows – hold their breath – 
When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

There are many wonderful poems included here. “The Happy Thought” is among them.  Like many things written for children at its time (1885) there are thoughts that are not happy at all. I am thinking of the poem lamenting that foreign children including Japanese children were not born in England.

I bought this little 1934 edition (with the 1919 illustrations) here in Tokyo while I was writing Somewhere Among. I wonder what the previous owner thought of “Foreign Children.” My children’s introduction to Robert Louis Stevenson was “The Happy Thought” in a friend’s gift of Disney’s Somebody Loves You. 

Stevenson’s poems are widely anthologized for children. Six of them appear in one of our favorite anthologies, Talking Like the Rain selected by X.J Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy and illustrated by Jane Dyer.