Monday, May 17, 2010

INSPIRED || READ: Holland Cotter, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times art critic

Over this past weekend, I spent some quality time with my new 3G iPad, doing what I love best: cruising the web.  I started off this weekend cruise going to my most favorite sites for news and fashion but then quickly rerouted to a suite of apps that I downloaded with glee from the iPad app store. One of the best free iPad apps is the NYT Editors' Choice app which aggregates the best of the best from the paper, organized by category (features, technology, etc.) as selected by the editors.  In the Features section of the app, I came across Holland Cotter's essay on poet, Emily Dickinson (for those in NYC, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has re-imagined Dickinson's world into a gorgeous exhibit that runs through May 31).

I have never been an avid reader of poetry and subsequently my interaction with Dickinson's work has been limited to high school honors English classes many years ago when the Norton Anthology books made it from my locker into my bookbag almost nightly.  After reading Cotter's essay,  I feel like the human form of Dickinson has re-entered my reader consciousness and I can't wait to be re-introduced to Miss Emily.  Cotter's essay was written with such fluidity, I felt like the words were rolling off the page into a stream of water.  He makes you **feel** how empowering and vigorous the impact of words can be.

A few of my favorite excerpts:

"I know exactly what she meant, because her poetry has that effect. Ambush is its strategy. It knocks the breath out of you and leaves you giddy, like a nanosecond-long roller coaster ride. If you visit the Dickinson show at the New York Botanical Garden, which I recommend, and watch people’s faces as they read the poems posted around the grounds, you may see that power in action."

"It’s a power she acquired in part by being, in some essential way, an outsider, but also from seeing that identity, not as a disability, but as a saving grace, and one that carries responsibilities:

The Province of the Saved

Should be the Art — to save

I love to think of kids, especially contrarian, odd-fit kids, coming across Dickinson’s Twitter-size poems for the first time, then learning about her life, a life that years ago, for at least one other kid, made being different not just O.K., but something to want to be.
And maybe those kids will decide to pay a call on her. The Homestead was a private residence in 1963 when I was there. 

Two years later Amherst College bought it; now it’s a museum, with thousands of people visiting every year. In my mind, I visit too; a lot. Dickinson means as much to me now as she ever did, maybe more. I keep coming back to knock on that front door."

For those who are interested, read up on Mr. Cotter. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning author as well as an art critic for the NYT. A bit about his work here. I'm going to read just about anything Mr. Cotter writes!

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