Wider Than the Sky: Essays and Meditations on the Healing Power of Emily Dickinson


Emily Dickinson is known as a poet who presses at the limits of perception and expresses in brilliantly compact, memorable language extremes of both anguish and ecstasy. Her frequent attention to pain and death, like her reclusive tendencies, has led many to dismiss her as "morbid." Biographers and critics, however, have shown how she used her writing and her own acquaintance with pain to reach out consolingly to sufferers. In a widely varied collection of personal reminiscences, tributes, and scholarly essays, editors Cindy MacKenzie and Barbara Dana offer richly revealing perspectives on how the exquisite language in the poems and letters of Emily Dickinson helps readers cope with suffering. The essays featured in "Wider than the Sky" range from fresh scholarly analyses to highly personal essays and meditations, each offering thoughts on the emotional, spiritual, and physical healing power gained from reading Dickinson. MacKenzie and Dana invite readers to reflect on how we respond to poems, how they enter into the core of our consciousness, and how we draw strength from what Dickinson called "the Art of Peace." "Wider than the Sky", is a resource for Dickinson fans as well as anyone coping with pain. It is an important addition to the Literature and Medicine Series.

“…adds significantly to our understanding of how Dickinson’s writing achieves concrete meaning in the lives of her readers…Rather than proposing interpretations based on formal characteristics, cultural context, or authorial biography, these contributors describe instances of poetic meaning that speak with an undeniable authenticity and power.”

-American Literary Scholarship


"This book is a wise and generous-hearted contribution to an appreciation of Emily Dickinson, poetry, and the resilience of the human spirit. MacKenzie and Dana have achieved something wonderfully humane and enriching."

- Jane Eberwein, Distinguished Professor of English, Oakland University"


“Editors MacKenzie and Dana have gathered scholarly and personal essays, tributes, and testimonials about the power of Dickinson’s poems to express pain and suffering and to offer consolation and hope... reveals a diverse community of individuals who share an affinity with Dickinson’s experience of pain, suffering, loss and ultimately survival and hope; their compelling personal stories bear witness to the healing power of Dickinson’s poems.”

- The Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin.


“...a richly varied collection …”


“…contributors combine scholarly and personal perspectives with a brilliance that burnishes hard-won knowledge into wisdom. Wider than the Sky offers the reader the intellectual rigor of fresh scholarship along with an emotional touchstone and a spiritual guide.”


“Through her own reading of Dickinson’s poems, co-editor Barbara Dana learns to regard emotional pain from a distance, standing as witness to it rather than being consumed by it. “Identifying with Emily…, I see – become – an individual going through the process of grief. I’m not lost in the process. This makes it bearable.” Witnessing the grief  “meant there was another part of me, besides the ‘me’ that was caught in the fear.”


“Dana is doing the difficult work of soul-making, one direction that is explored here by several contributors. Like the reading and writing processes themselves, moving through the isolation of pain and connecting with the humanity of others can be transformative.”

- The Emily Dickinson Journal