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Donahue, Joseph P.: "The way I read a letter’s this: a selection from Terra Lucida", a Keynote Address

This keynote reading is a lyrical exegesis of a letter from Emily Dickinson to Sue Dickinson, a letter which is itself a poem, a poem welcoming the poet’s beloved into her lifework, and proclaiming her name. The letter, complex in and of itself, is further complicated by an additional element: the letter was blotted beyond legibility in black ink by an intermediary who arose between Dickinson and poetic
immortality. This second hand may be that of Mabel Todd, though a Mabel Todd quite possibly acting on behalf of cosmic forces of which she was unaware. The keynote poem, “unable,” is one suite in an ongoing multi-volume work called Terra Lucida, a work which gathers up what I believe Emily Dickinson would agree is the only news I know. This suite draws on a vision of Dickinson suggested by Robert
Duncan’s recently posted 1981 New College seminar on Emily Dickinson
( [1]). Following Duncan, this suite of poems presumes a Dickinson deeply versed in Victorian art culture, in traditions of magic, and in hermetic thought.

Joseph Donahue is the author of Before Creation, Monitions of the Approach, World Well Broken, Incidental Eclipse, Red Flash on a Black Field (forthcoming) and an ongoing long poem, Terra Lucida, of which two volumes have appeared, Terra Lucida, and Dissolves. A third volume, Flame Tree, is forthcoming. With Ed Foster he co-edited The World in Time and Space, Towards a History of Innovative Poetry in out Time. His reviews have appeared in Bookforum, the Notre Dame Review, Talisman, and Jacket 2. He is, ever so slowly, working on a collection of essays about ritual, writing, and apocalypse in American poetry of the 1980s and 90s.