Emily Dickinson, American Poet 

What makes me very sad and I hope inspires others to tell THEIR stories, without it being hijacked by others less competent. When I read that only 10 of her 1800 poems were published by her. Her style of writing did not fit the “norms” of the day and that after her death her words were manipulated by less worthy eyes. She must have either suffered a great burden as a child or maybe was “on the spectrum,” since she was such a recluse. Or she could have suffered from a yet-diagnosis of agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder where one does not feel safe in public places.

Her personality quirks show up in the poems. One of my favorites is “Hope’ is the thing with feathers.” She also wrote melancholic ones that dealt with death and the afterlife as in, “Because I could not stop for death.” In a most subtle way, I felt her in her poems and they left a lasting impression on an impressionable student.

She was introduced to the poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson by one of her father’s law students, Benjamin F. Newton, and to that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning by Susan Gilbert and Henry Vaughan Emmons, a gifted college student. Two of Barrett Browning’s works, “A Vision of Poets,” describing the pantheon of poets, and Aurora Leigh, on the development of a female poet, seem to have played a formative role for Dickinson, validating the idea of female greatness and stimulating her ambition.

This is about a brilliant poet who has finally gotten her recognition.

136 years ago, on 15th May, 1886, Emily Dickinson died at the age of 55. The American poet was little-known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most important figures in American poetry.

Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts into a prominent family with strong ties to its community. After studying at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she briefly attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family’s house in Amherst.

Evidence suggests that Dickinson lived much of her life in isolation. Considered an eccentric by locals, she developed a penchant for white clothing and was known for her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence.

While Dickinson was a prolific writer, her only publications during her lifetime were 10 of her nearly 1,800 poems, and one letter. The poems published then were usually edited significantly to fit conventional poetic rules. Her poems were unique for her era. They contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends, and also explore aesthetics, society, nature and spirituality.

Outraged?…..read on!

Although Dickinson’s acquaintances were most likely aware of her writing, it was not until after her death in 1886, when Lavinia, Dickinson’s younger sister, discovered her cache of poems, that her work became public. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890 by personal acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, though both heavily edited the content. A 1998 New York Times article revealed that of the many edits made to Dickinson’s work, the name “Susan” was often deliberately removed. At least eleven of Dickinson’s poems were dedicated to sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, though all the dedications were obliterated, presumably by Todd. A complete, and mostly unaltered, collection of her poetry became available for the first time when scholar Thomas H. Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson in 1955

The colorized version of a Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, c. early 1847, is at the top of page. This picture is the only authenticated portrait of Emily Dickinson after childhood. It was taken in either December 1846 or early 1847 which makes her about 16 years old in this photograph. It is presently located in Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.

Emily Dickinson, American Poet
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