These scraps of paper, carrying shards of poems and prose, give us glimpses of Emily Dickinson’s creative process during the latter years of her life.
Amherst College holds many of what Dickinson scholars call “fragments.” (The collection, which contains letters and manuscript drafts alongside these fragments, has recently been digitized and is fully accessible to the public.)
Dickinson’s editor Millicent Todd Bingham described Dickinson’s manuscripts:
“A jumble of words on odds and ends of paper, some of it crumpled or torn . . . There are pink scraps, blue and yellow scraps . . . all . . . written in pencil and all in the late handwriting . . . The strokes are sometimes faint and the lines often overlap so that the words overtake one another as if written in the dark.
“The Amherst digital collection shows how visually diverse these fragments are, scrawled on backs of envelopes, thin strips of paper and sheets that seem to have been crumpled and then smoothed out.”