Reviews and Selections

Emily Dickinson's Writing Desk

Review of The Heart Has Many Doors: A Novel of Emily Dickinson appearing in the May/June 2015 Bulletin of the Emily Dickinson International Society ; excerpt from Intimate Portraits - a review of three new Dickinson books - by Renee Bergland:

... In the past few months, a French essayist, an American poet, and a British screenwriter novelist have published creative works about Dickinson. Although they are quite different from each other in style, all three books offer startlingly intimate views of Dickinson. ...

Not to be outdazzled, Susan Snively has written a narrative that is daring in a completely different way. Snively has published four books of poetry and is a guide at the Emily Dickinson Museum. Although her book has a more conventional narrative structure, in some ways it is the boldest of the works under consideration here.

The Heart Has Many Doors imagines the relationship between Emily Dickinson and Otis Phillips Lord, quoting liberally from some poems and letters that survive in the archive, but also from others concocted by Snively herself, in the voices of the judge and the poet. She takes bold imaginative liberties, but Snively's sensibilities are in tune with Dickinson's. Her novel is affecting, fresh, and passionate.

Both Snively's dialogue and her interior monologue are pitch-perfect. When Dickinson and her father are stranded on the train from Boston during a snowstorm, they sleep close to each other, embracing: "Back and forth, half asleep, she crossed from world to world, home to elsewhere, nowhere, anywhere. Her mind was a boat, a carriage, a train, a sled, a cradle a bed in a town by the sea, or a room guarded by snowy hemlocks." The scene and the prose are Snively's, but the sensibility is pure Dickinson. (view as PDF)


Rose City Reader: Author Interview: Susan Snively


Book review: "The Heart Has Many Doors" by Susan Snively
Reviewed by Tinky Weisblat for the Greenfield Recorder
(view as PDF)


NHPR New Hampshire News: Susan Snively:
Jumbo and Little Phil: Emily Dickinson's Romance
with Otis Phillips Lord


Excerpts from films: "Seeing New Englandly" and "My Business is to Sing"


Quotes regarding The Heart Has Many Doors, Skeptic Traveler, The Undertow, Voices in the House, From This Distance


Selections from The Heart Has Many Doors, Skeptic Traveler, The Undertow, Voices in the House, From This Distance


"Reading Susan Snively's poems is like sitting next to a great talker at a dinner party. Full of stories, jokes, digressions, and wicked little asides, they seduce and entertain. But beneath the protective coloration of their wry and witty surfaces, something else is happening. The poems' real work is to strip away whatever obscures the heart's true story, and to look long and hard at the history of damages done over the years. In The Undertow, grief and joy dance together, inseparable. It's a spectacle both hilarious and wrenching." —Chase Twichell


"Clean-cut, fluent, witty, direct, full of personality and surprise. Susan Snively can also be deeply meditative, grave and affecting, uproarious. In all of her work, which varies in form as well as mood, her words have a delectable texture." —Richard Wilbur


"Skeptic Traveler is a collection graced by intelligence, wit, and also by a feeling heart. Susan Snively's skepticism, whether exercised in traveling to other countries, to her familial past, or to the nooks and crannies of a complicated present, is a humane one: generous and alert to the multiple possibilities experience may yield; humorously inventive in turning those possibilities into lines of verse." —William H. Pritchard


Of Voices in the House: "The richness of Susan Snively's new book comes from her technical care and emotional courage, but also from the polyphony explicit in her title. For whenever this poet 'found her voice,' she gave it freely to what and who are usually mute. This is exciting work." —William Matthews


The Heart Has Many DoorsSkeptic TravelerThe UndertowVoices in the HouseFrom This Distance