Holly S

Illustrator and eater of bread



Two Ghosts Converse / 'I Died for Beauty' / Emily Dickinson

I've chosen to work with a poem by Emily Dickinson, which in my poetry anthology is entitled 'Two Ghosts Converse' (though it seems to be more widely known by the first line - 'I Died for Beauty' - so I'm not sure whether the title was assigned by the publishers, or chosen by the author).

The text is here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-died-for-beauty/

I'll update this project as progress is made on the book cover, and I document my research process.

I feel that there are some very obvious directions this could be taken in, based on the imagery in the poem (death, tombs, general funereal-ity) and it would be good to avoid those if I can.

Update 14 November 2014:

Although my research suggests that 'Two Ghosts Converse' may not be an official title given by the author, I've chosen to stick with it as the title I will use on my book cover, since I think it would be a good title under which to collect similarly-themed poetry in an anthology.

As part of the cover design process is analysing the words used in the work, and its title, using this title also gives me some extra words to look at for inspiration ('ghosts' and 'converse' do not appear directly in the poem's text).

Here's an image of the text as featured in the book I have ('Poems Bewitched and Haunted' from the 'Everyman's Library Pocket Poets' range).

This poem is interesting as the premise of it seems to be partly based around an allusion to another poem, 'Ode to a Grecian Urn' by John Keats: this is where the oft-quoted line 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty' comes from, and I feel like a familiarity with this idea is necessary to understand what the second character in Dickinson's poem refers to when he states 'the two are one'.

As part of my research process for the book cover, I was interested to try and find out how deliberate this reference to the other poem was - my feeling is that it was done with absolute intent - since that possibly gives me additional imagery to work with; the idea of the urn, which is not only the image in Keats' poem, but today has slightly funereal undertones (as the vessel for the ashes of a cremated person). This ties in nicely with the theme of death in the original poem.

Next, I will share my full analysis of the poem's text, as well as some other things I found in my research process...


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