Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

My Letter to the World and Other Poems

Dickinson, Emily (Author)
Arsenault, Isabelle (Illustrator)
Kids Can Press 2008. 48 pages
First published: 1890
Series: Visions in Poetry
ISBN: 9781554533398 (paperback)
Original language: English
Dewey: 811
Book type: Anthology
Book genre: Poetry

Text Elements:

evocative language, figurative language, language conventions, point of view, structures and features

Award

Governor General’s Literary Award – Finalist – 2008

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This thematically illustrated volume gathers seven of Emily Dickinson’s best-known, best-loved poems about love, hope and death.

The book itself is a work of art. The onionskin opening page allows a faded glimpse of the illustration on the page behind. The large decorative type of the first poem seems to hover: “This is my letter to the World/That never wrote to me—”.

Provocative and dense, using short lines and simple language, the poetry is certain to appeal to adolescents whose own emerging beliefs are being questioned and challenged. All readers will recognize the defiant spirit behind: “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

Dreamscape-like images depict fashions and furnishings of the period in which the poems were written. The sketchy, intimate style of the drawings skillfully reflects the introspective tone of the words. Silhouette, shadow and mirror-image are also employed as a lone figure in a white dress makes an appearance in almost every image. She is seen behind dark planks, on the facing page of another hidden figure, to illustrate the words: “And were You—saved/And I condemned to be/Where You were not— /That self—were hell to me”.

Back material includes brief but comprehensive profiles of the poet and the illustrator.

  •  

    During a read-aloud of “There’s a certain Slant of light,” discuss strategies for constructing meaning by making connections between the poem and illustration.

  •  

    In a small group, analyze the illustrations. Look for repeated motifs (such as trees and birds), use of colour and composition, subject matter, etc. Discuss how elements in the illustrations work in relation to the text.

  •  

    Select one of the poems and do a 2-4 minute quickwrite on a favourite line or section. Share with a small group and discuss the variety of ideas generated.

  •  

    Judging from the cover, what kind of poems do you expect to find inside? Select a random page or poem and start an ongoing list of descriptive language that you find there.

  •  

    In small teams, select a poem and give it an appropriate title. Discuss the poet's message before writing your thoughts in your journal.

  •  

    Choose new vocabulary words from the text such as gossamer and tippet. Write a definition that fits with the meaning in the text.

  •  Using the book’s brief biographies of Dickinson and Arsenault in addition to other books or reliable online sources, create an infographic poster that celebrates their works of art.
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use creativity
  • To use information
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Visual Arts