Janet Holmes

The ms of my kin

Published 2009
Shearsman Books | Online

< Artists + Writers

Janet Holmes, lives and works in Boise, Idaho

“Janet Holmes, in composing The ms of my kin raises a new image of the poet, one known to scholars, but relatively unacknowledged in the traditional teaching of Dickinson — that of her as wartime poet; an opponent of injustice, a participant in the movement for abolition and keenly aware and sensitive to what was occurring in the world outside of her in Amherst. And, to invoke the notion of history in light of Holmes’ approach to erasing poems from 1861-2 is to expose history for its own eccentricities, its odd justification of its own events and the denial of its cyclical tendencies. Often, as the adage goes, those that write the historical texts traditionally part of the “canon” of the narrative of history are written by the victors, the vanquisher, in their own voices and in their own conditions. The fulcrum of Holmes’ erasure robs history of these rights of expropriation and subject them to appropriation. For Dickinson’s time, the conflict at-hand was the Civil War—a conflict that, while between our own kin, was also a conflict that drew the world in. Nations vied to support the party they saw to be the victor and were economically dependent on the outcome. In our time (and Holmes’ text), it was been the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that have caused internal divisions (though not leading to internal armed combat) and have, in a similar context, embroiled and incorporated the world around us.”

Douglas Luman, The Found Poetry Review, March 4, 2014