Poet Paul Legault takes all 1,789 poems by Emily Dickinson and “translates” them into mostly one-liners in modern vernacular. Alexandra Socarides surveys the results:
You like the idea, regardless of the corresponding poem, that Dickinson might be expressing such strange and bold ideas.
Sometimes I like Legault’s versions because they are simple, direct, honest statements, like “It is autumn, and I’m going to put on some earrings” (32) or “I want to be so famous it physically crushes me” (919). At other times I like them because they are explicit where Dickinson was often not: “This is my flower. You can borrow it, but you better damn well give it back. There is something sexual about this exchange” (92). And at other times I like them because it is downright funny to imagine Dickinson writing (or even thinking) such a thought as “You know I’m all in when I say that I’ll bet my biggest bobolink on it. Trust me” (266). These lines make me think of Dickinson’s poems differently — as more forthright than I normally consider them to be. So that when Legault writes, “Without you, Sue, I am nothing. Scratch that. Without you, I am some things but not enough things to make up a human being” (393), I realize that, of course, Dickinson has been saying this all along.