Emily Dickinson is an unlikely patron saint for all who seek or wrestle with God. Looking closely at twenty-five poems, this intimate portrait and personal reflection shows how Dickinson can guide us, through belief and doubt alike, toward God.
Many have thought that Dickinson, one of America's greatest poets, rejected religion. Yet the poems that unfold her soul can inspire ours, offering fresh answers to ultimate questions about life and death, faith and doubt, Jesus and God. In chapters on belief, prayer, mortality, immortality, and beauty, Kristin LeMay traces the dimensions of Dickinson's spiritual life and tells the story of her own search for God between the lines of the poems that Dickinson called “hymns.”
Praise for I Told My Soul to Sing
“Exuberant and captivating. A shimmering jewel of a book.” –Dinty W. Moore
“Through her deep engagement with Dickinson’s poems—by turn prayers, partners, revelations, songs—LeMay has written a book that is, in Dickinson’s words, ‘the Heart’s portrait — every Page a Pulse,’ every page a kind of faith.” — Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up with God: A Love Story
“Part spiritual autobiography, part homage to Dickinson’s inexhaustible poetic genius, and part exuberant close readings of the astonishing poems in which she wrestles with questions of faith and belief, I Told My Soul to Sing is a valuable study of the poet’s heterodox imagination. LeMay does not shackle Dickinson to a procrustean bed of doctrine and piety, dilute the poet’s astringent ironies, or flatten the provocative ambiguities. She has a gift for choosing unfamiliar poems from the canon and for judiciously quoting and interpreting them. A smart, seriously playful, winning, and readable commentary on a quintessentially elusive, thorny, and linguistically daring American poet.” — Herbert Leibowitz, editor, Parnassus: Poetry in Review
“LeMay’s implied reader is someone attracted to religious faith, but even an atheist can enjoy this book’s provocative illuminations of spiritual longing, fear, and anger, in which questions cut deeper than answers.” — Mark Halliday, poet, author of Keep This Forever and Stevens and the Interpersonal
“A brilliant analysis of the bond between life and poetry, written with sensitivity and talent.” — François Bovon, Frothingham Professor of the History of Religion Emeritus, Harvard Divinity School