Emily Dickinson Poems

Selected by Ted Hughes





Once Julian has started walking more steadily at home, he likes to linger in front of my bookshelf and uses his little fingers to poke at the spines of my books. Every night, after he has gone to sleep, I will tidy up the books so he can poke at them again the next day. Sometimes I might not have seen him poking, and when I noticed the crooked rows of books on the shelf, I would wonder if he was trying to create some kind of secret codes for me to decipher.

Apart from poking at the spines of my books, Julian also enjoys taking one out and flipping through it. He loves looking at the covers most, especially those with the authors’ photos. About ten years ago, I bought this very much treasured book, Emily Dickinson Poems Selected by Ted Hughes, at the price of 3.99 pounds when I was travelling in London. The first time when Julian looked at this cover, he called out enthusiastically, “Auntie!” I laughed and told him, “This is Emily.” Ever since then, whenever I say to Julian, “Please get Emily for me.”, he would hurry towards the bookshelf and search for it. With some practice, he can even spot it and take it out with merely one glance. I have always wondered how he can do it so quickly without any miss, since he cannot read yet, and the spine of this book only has its name printed on it. This has still remained very much a mystery to me.

It is said that Emily had always lived a very reclusive life, mostly spending time to read and write poems in her own room. She also loved baking very much. Whenever she had made some gingerbread or small oval cakes, she would put them in a bread basket, decorate them with some flowers, and then lower the basket with a rope from her window, so that the children from the neighbourhood could get them.

This also makes me wonder, if everyone really does have a past life, would Julian have been one of those children who had enjoyed eating Emily’s cakes?