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On poetry and peonies

By Laurena Mayne Davis

The gloriously reclusive poet rarely ventured from her family’s Amherst, Mass., home, but when Emily Dickinson wasn’t peering out her bedroom window, she was reveling in the garden.

"I was always attached to mud," she wrote.

The New York Botanical Garden re-created a 19th century New England garden in honor of Dickinson: Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers.

National Public Radio reported on it last spring. Go here  for the story in audio and print and for a photo gallery from the garden.

Think statuesque dianthus, speckled foxglove and spicy dianthus. And just as Dickinson tucked poems into nosegays as gifts, some 30 of her poems are sprinkled on plaques among the garden's trees and flowers.

To discern Dickinson’s preferred plantings, representatives with the botanical garden pored over her letters and poems for botanical mentions. Dandelions were included, too, because Dickinson said she thought of herself more as a dandelion.

Maybe so, but with her pen, even the humblest subjects bloom.

NATURE rarer uses yellow
Than another hue;
Saves she all of that for sunsets,—
Prodigal of blue,

Spending scarlet like a woman,
Yellow she affords
Only scantly and selectly,
Like a lover’s words.

— Emily Dickinson

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