It is unfortunate but nevertheless true that most of today’s educated readers do not understand, are indifferent to, or even dislike poetry. Given that fact, many readers might pass up Eliza R. Snow: The Complete Poetry without so much as a glance at its contents. That would be a mistake. In preparing this comprehensive collection of Eliza R. Snow’s poetry, editors Jill Mulvay Derr and Karen Lynn Davidson have rightly understood that Eliza’s writings have great significance in their relationship to her personal life as well as the religious and historical events to which she was responding. Derr and Davidson have provided such contextual information by including in the introduction an overview of Snow’s poetry and a short biography. They also introduce each chapter with more specific historical and personal information about the period in Snow’s life when the chapter’s poems were written. By preceding each of the 507 poems with an explanation of the context and all unfamiliar references, the reader is prepared to encounter and understand Eliza’s verse.
Such careful, thorough scholarship is the hallmark of Eliza R. Snow: The Complete Poetry. Besides the introductions to the entire volume, to each chapter, and to each poem, Derr and Davidson have also provided an appendix with poems attributed to Eliza that may not have been written by her; a section of textual notes that provides the variant texts of each poem and the text of whatever poem or letter Eliza may have been responding to. There is a twenty-two-page bibliography of sources cited in the book and three indexes: title and first line index, scripture index, and general index. This wonderful collection of Eliza R. Snow’s poems is usable in every way. Karen Lynn Davidson and Jill Mulvay Derr are to be thanked for the preparation of this extraordinary book that will help us become acquainted with Eliza R. Snow’s poetry and to know this remarkable Church leader in a far deeper and more significant way.