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Emily Dickinson

(1830-1866)

from: "Fields of  Vision” by D.Delaney

Life

Family background Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830. Her father was a successful lawyer and a prominent member of the community who raised his children according to austere Puritan principles. During her early years Emily was witty and sociable, but from her mid-twenties she began to withdraw from the outside world.

Retreat into reclusion By the age of thirty she had become a total recluse, living her life in total isolation: "You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog large as myself, that my father bought me. They are better than beings because they know, but do not tell” (from: Letter to Mr. Higginson, received April 26, 1862). For over twenty years she never left her father’s house, wore only white clothes and received very few guests. The townspeople of Amherst referred to her as "The Myth”.

Poetry and letter-writing Dickinson was an avid reader and letter writer and exchanged letters with a large number of people, some of whom she never met personally. She submitted some of the 2,000 poems she wrote for publication, but only seven were published in her lifetime. Her contemporaries found her work bewildering.

Love and the outside world There is much speculation about her emotional life and it has been suggested that there was a disappointed love affair. Her interest in the outside world was so minimal that even events such as the Civil War that ravaged the country in the years 1861-1865 had little or no impact on her.

Published posthumously After her death in 1886 her sister found her poems, all bound up in handmade booklets. The first volumes of her poetry to be published appeared in 1890 and 1891.

Works

Traditional themes/original style During her reclusive life Emily Dickinson wrote almost 2,000 poems, mostly short lyrics in simple quatrains and almost all untitled and undated. In her poetry she scrutinized the material world that surrounded her and the inner world of her emotions. The subjects of her poems are traditional – love, nature, religion and mortality. However, her treatment of these subjects is highly original. Early publishers corrected her eccentric punctuation, which included the frequent use of dashes, seemingly random capitalization of nouns, ungrammatical sentences and broken meter.

Metaphysical influence The influence of the seventeenth-century Metaphysical poets can be seen in the intensity of the emotions she expressed and her use of startling metaphors.

Inner struggle and nature Her poetry often reveals a painful inner struggle that may have been caused by religious doubts. Although she could not accept the doctrines of orthodox religion, she seemed to long for the comforts of unquestioned faith. Hers is the poetry of funerals, volcanoes, storms, and shipwrecks, but it is also the poetry of butterflies, birds and sunrays. Her ability to capture in words the smallest detail of nature was one of her greatest talents.

Reputation Initially Emily Dickinson was consider to be an eccentric minor poet. Today she is regarded as one of the outstanding poets of the nineteenth century and a major influence on the poets of the twentieth century.

External Links:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Dickinson          

 
 
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