Emily Dickinson


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About Our Emily Dickinson Collection

On the left you will find 3 poetry books published by Emily’s family after her death. Many in the academic community feel that these books were poorly edited and are not true to Dickinson’s vision. Regardless, these are the most familiar versions for the public at large, the versions most often taught in school. We have also listed some of her more popular poems individually. In total, our Emily Dickinson collection consists of over 400 poems.

Emily Dickinson Biography

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), ‘The Belle of Amherst’, American poet, wrote hundreds of poems including “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, “Heart, we will forget him!”, “I'm Nobody! Who are You?”, and “Wild Nights! Wild Nights!”;

Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port, --
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in Thee!

Among the ranks of other such acclaimed poets as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson is considered one of the most original 19th Century American poets. She is noted for her unconventional broken rhyming meter and use of dashes and random capitalisation as well as her creative use of metaphor and overall innovative style. She was a deeply sensitive woman who questioned the puritanical background of her Calvinist family and soulfully explored her own spirituality, often in poignant, deeply personal poetry. She admired the works of John Keats and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but avoided the florid and romantic style of her time, creating poems of pure and concise imagery, at times witty and sardonic, often boldly frank and illuminating the keen insight she had into the human condition. At times characterised as a semi-invalid, a hermit, a heartbroken introvert, or a neurotic agoraphobic, her poetry is sometimes brooding and sometimes joyous and celebratory. Her sophistication and profound intellect has been lauded by laymen and scholars alike and influenced many other authors and poets into the 21st Century. There has been much speculation and controversy over details of Dickinson’s life including her sexual orientation, romantic attachments, her later reclusive years, and the editing and publication of various volumes of her poems. This biography serves only as an overview of her life and poetry and leaves the in-depth analysis to the many scholars who have devoted years to the study of Emily Dickinson, the woman and her works.

Emily Dickinson was born into one of Amherst, Massachusetts’ most prominent families on 10 December 1830. She was the second child born to Emily Norcross (1804-1882) and Edward Dickinson (1803-1874), a Yale graduate, successful lawyer, Treasurer for Amherst College and a United States Congressman. Her grandfather Samuel Fowler Dickinson (1775-1838) was a Dartmouth graduate, accomplished lawyer and one of the founders of Amherst College. He also built one of the first brick homes in the New England town on Main Street, which is now a National Historic Landmark ‘The Homestead’ and one of the now preserved Dickinson homes in the Emily Dickinson Historic District.

Emily had an older brother named William Austin Dickinson (1829-1895) (known as Austin) who would marry her most intimate friend Susan Gilbert in 1856. Her younger sister’s name was Lavinia ‘Vinnie’ Norcross Dickinson (1833-1899). The Dickinsons were strong advocates for education and Emily too benefited from an early education in classic literature, studying the writings of Virgil and Latin, mathematics, history, and botany. Until she was ten years old, she and her family lived with her grandfather Samuel and his family on Main Street. In 1840 they moved to North Pleasant Street, Emily’s window overlooking the West Street Cemetery where daily burials occurred. The same year, Emily entered Amherst Academy under the tutelage of scientist and theologian, Edward Hitchcock.

Dickinson proved to be a dazzling student and in 1847, though she was already somewhat of a ‘homebody’, at the age of seventeen Emily left for South Hadley, Massachusetts to attend the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. She stayed there less than a year and some of the theories as to why she left are homesickness and poor health. Another reason some speculate is that when she refused to sign an oath publicly professing her faith in Christ, her ensuing chastisement from Mary Lyon proved to be too much humiliation. Back home in the patriarchal household of aspiring politicians, Emily started to write her first poems. She was in the midst of the college town’s society and bustle although she started to spend more time alone, reading and maintaining lively correspondences with friends and relatives.

In 1855 Emily and her sister spent time in the cities of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the same year her father bought the Main Street home where she was born. He built an addition to The Homestead, replete with gardens and conservatory. Thereafter he held a yearly reception for Amherst College’s commencement, to which Emily made an appearance as the gracious hostess. In 1856 Emily’s brother, now himself a successful Harvard graduate and Amherst lawyer, married her best friend Susan Gilbert. They moved into their home nearby ‘The Evergreens’, a wedding gift from his father. They frequently entertained such guests as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican, who would publish a few of Emily’s poems and become a great friend to her and possible object of affection in some of her poems. In 1862 Dickinson answered a call for poetry submissions in the Atlantic Monthly. She struck up a correspondence with its editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson. He had tried to correct her work, but she refused to alter it, though they soon became friends and it is speculated that Emily also had romantic feelings for him.

Dark times were soon to fall on Emily. In 1864 and 1865 she went to stay with her Norcross cousins in Boston to see an eye doctor whereupon she was forbidden to read or write. It would be the last time she ventured from Amherst. By the early 1870’s Emily’s ailing mother was confined to her bed and Emily and her sister cared for her. Around the time her father Edward died suddenly in 1874 she stopped going out in public though she still kept up her social contacts via correspondence, writing at her desk in her austere bedroom, and seemed to have enjoyed her solitude. She regularly tended the homestead’s gardens and loved to bake, and the neighborhood children sometimes visited her with their rambunctious games. In 1878 her friend Samuel Bowles died and another of her esteemed friends Charles Wadsworth died in 1882, the same year her mother succumbed to her lengthy illness. A year later her brother Austin’s son Gilbert died. Dickinson herself had been afflicted for some time with her own illness affecting the kidneys, Bright’s Disease, symptoms of which include chronic pain and edema, which may have contributed to her seclusion from the outside world.

‘Called Back’: Emily Dickinson died on 15 May 1886, at the age of fifty-six. She now rests in the West Cemetery of Amherst, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. Not wishing a church service, a gathering was held at The Homestead. She was buried in one of the white dresses she had taken to wearing in her later years, violets pinned to her collar by Lavinia.

Although many friends including Helen Hunt Jackson had encouraged Dickinson to publish her poetry, only a handful of them appeared publicly during her lifetime. Upon her death her sister Lavinia found hundreds of them tied into ‘fascicles’ stitched together by Emily’s own hand. Some were written in pencil, only a few titled, many unfinished. Lavinia enlisted the aid of Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd to edit them and roughly arrange them chronologically into collections: Poems, Series 1 in 1890, Poems, Series 2 in 1891, and Poems, Series 3 in 1896. The edits were aggressive to standardise punctuation and capitalisation and some poems re-worded, but by and large it was a labour of love. From Thomas Wentworth Higginson's Preface to Poems, Series 1;

--flashes of wholly original and profound insight into nature and life; words and phrases exhibiting an extraordinary vividness of descriptive and imaginative power, yet often set in a seemingly whimsical or even rugged frame....the main quality of these poems is that of extraordinary grasp and insight.

In 1914 Emily’s niece Martha Dickinson Bianchi published another of the many collections to follow. Even with the first few volumes her work attracted much attention, though not without its critics. In 1892, Thomas Bailey Aldrich published a scathing review in the Atlantic Monthly; She was deeply tinged by the mysticism of Blake, and strongly influenced by the mannerism of Emerson....but the incoherence and formlessness of her—versicles are fatal. In 1955, Thomas H. Johnson published the first comprehensive collection of her poems in three volumes titled The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Including Variant Readings Critically Compared With all Known Manuscripts. Johnson’s The Letters of Emily Dickinson appeared in 1958.

This Is My Letter To The World

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,--
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on Emily Dickinson

Does This Ring A Bell?

I read a poem by Emily Dickinson several years ago. I don't remember the title. If I describe the gist of it maybe someone will recognize what poem it is and tell me. In the poem she went for an outing, took a walk to the top of a hill overlooking her town. I believe there was mention of wind, trees, sun, flowers. She had a quiet, lovely day, then she set off again down the hill to home. That's it, the whole story. Sweet and simple. It was a short poem. I hope someone knows which poem it is. Thanks in advance for any help you can offer in this regard. Bye for now. :)


need help locating quote source, please!

Hi everyone, I am trying to put together an essay outline comparing the poetry of EDickinson and CRossetti for a female in literature course I am taking atm. I read an infamous quote somewhere that I need to locate but cannot seem to find in any of my notes. I am hoping perhaps someone might be familiar with the quote and know a reputable source for it as my potential thesis will partly revolve around it. The quote is something along the lines of: ED's poetry could be considered more seriously had she written in iambic pentameter or perhaps ED's poetry cannot be taken seriously because she did not write in iambic pentameter. Something along those lines. I want to pit that statement against the fact that Rossetti did indeed write formally structured poems, often in sonnet form, but was still largely dismissed; most notably perhaps by her brother of letters/critic (name escapes me atm, but not Dante, Edward maybe?). Then of course, go on to hail the writing style of both, probably angling how they can both be interpreted as writing products of their environments; so far as Rossetti was unavoidably steeped and thus influenced by a very formally, traditional European culture, whereas Dickinson was influenced by the beginnings of a new country feeling its way in the world, and thus helping to account for her daring, unconventional (I've got nothing to lose) style of writing. Her poems would surely have suffered in creativity, or at least her readers would have been denied the wonder of her creative force, had she attempted a more formally accepted style of writing, even though she would perhaps had more encouragement to publish (from the likes of Higginson who discouraged ED publishing b/c of her unconventional style) and stake a claim to fame during her own lifetime. Or something like that. Any help locating a source for that quote would be much appreciated. cheers, nap


Poem 531

Hey, guys, I’ve been evaluating a wide number of Dickinson poems and have found a few that are often neglected by the criterion of the typical Dickinson “canon.” One poem in particular that I think deserves more attention is poem 531. Its examination of consciousness in response to the mainstream romantic thought of the after life and the present life is gracious and profound. There is such beautiful diction in this poem that encapsulate her concern for the changing consciousness in the maneuvering from dreamscape to reality and finally to death (e.g. “shafts of granite,” Drama, and so forth). Even the introduction of “Egyptian” brings into question a certain exoticism derived from the ancient association of foreign text. This poem, itself, carries death and life through a dreamscape that is some sort of Drama, staged and never dying. And our consciousness, the speaker’s consciousness, speaks to the changing of this movement. Where are we finally, once a name is all that’s left and a foreign tag reads something strange to mark our passing? And what, in whichever reality, is life? What do you guys think? Any other poems that are often disregarded from the main body of her work?


Poem 624

So, I recently wrote a brief paper interpretting one of Emily's poems in relation to several other poems, with a brief emphasis on consciousness. I would fully appreciate any type of feedback or thoughts as part of my class requirement! --------------- 624 Forever—is composed of Nows— ‘Tis not a different time— Except for Infiniteness— And Latitude of Home— From this—experienced Here— Removed the Dates—to These— Let Months dissolve in further Months— And Years—exhale in Years— Without Debate—or Pause— Or Celebrated Days— No different Our Years would be From Anno Domini’s— As timeless as Emily Dickinson’s poetry has become, one integral theme to many of her poems focuses on the concept of time, whether it’s a moment, an eternity, or infinity. Dickinson is well known for her suspended, idealized moment focused on time as the muse; she is observational rather than emotional as portrayed in poem 624, as numbered by Thomas Johnson’s arrangement. In order to dissect and fully appreciate and implicate Dickinson’s poetry, each line should be considered individually, then as part of a whole. To begin, the first line suggests that the anatomical makeup of Forever is an unlimited number of “nows.” This is supported by the second line which states that Forever cannot be comprised of any reference of time other than “now” i.e., this very moment. Lines three and four encompass any disparities of how the concept of Forever as a “now” might exclude its total acceptance: that Forever is infinite, and that Forever’s “nows” may be separated by individuals. To clarify, perhaps the “now” is consequentially different for each of us (philosophically, we can’t occupy the same space as someone else)—that is, the physical place where each of us is from must house a different “now” or moment in time. “Let Months dissolve in further Months—” may suggest the present now existing in the future or possibly in the past. Likewise, “And Years—exhale in Years—” creates similar imagery; however, the verb choice “exhale” is interesting. Whereas an exhale is an expulsion or outward purging of an internal aspect, to “exhale in” might suggest past or present years encompassing future years. The relation among time references in these two lines corresponds as an ingenious implosion or circumlocution of “now.” Ultimately, Dickinson’s poem defines “now” as an embodiment of Forever and vice versa. Lastly, the final stanza of poem 624 utilizes “anno domini”—“In the year of our Lord.” The speaker suggests that debating, pausing, or celebrating, when we focus fully on the “now” our years would be the same as the year of our Lord. This may intimate that when one attains the enlightenment of living in and becoming the now, we may consider ourselves deity-like. Therefore, the concept of time may be completely unnecessary because the lord doesn’t need a concept of time if He is eternal and limitless. In relation to poem 686, the passage of “Time is a Test of Trouble—/But not a Remedy—/If such it prove, it prove too/There was no Malady—”; that’s not to say anything is wrong but that things happen as they happen. If time does not assuage, it’s not the length of passing time after an event which mends an aching heart, but rather what we do in the “now” that’s important. Interestingly, comparing this concept to poem 765, the speaker personifies the ideas of time and eternity and suggests that we are each, in a respect, our own deities (“You constituted Time —/I deemed Eternity/A Revelation of Yourself —/'Twas therefore Deity”). This would certainly fit with Dickinson’s previous poetic explication that “forever”—an unlimited amount of time—is an essential composition to the Lord or to a God (an essentially ourselves). Augmenting with poem 406 to the interpretive mix, it’s suggested that time and limitlessness is a more tangible thing. The idea of immortality is juxtaposed with the concept of time—the speaker suggests that being in possession of large quantities of time does not necessitate or facilitate immortality or length of life. Following this concept, “Some — Work for Immortality —/The Chiefer part, for Time —/He — Compensates — immediately —/The former — Checks — on Fame —” I have interpreted that Time rewards us instantly, and if forever is composed of now, living in the moment will generate results. However, working for immortality seems to be a method in searching for fame, but no outcome is elaborated. The second stanza of poem 406 intimates that everlastingness is also very different from immortality; there exists a semantic subtlety in that everlasting embodies the idea of “forever composed of nows”—a classicism bordering on the abstract, and indeed, a moment frozen in time. On the other hand, immortality connotes a passage of time and a change throughout due to the passage of time. 406 wraps up this idea in the final stanza that money itself is ironically cheap, whereas a source for money (the mine) is integrally more important. Supposedly, that is to say, if the mine were related to one who constitutes time, and if one who constitutes time may be considered a deity, in a way one is also immortal. Time is also popularly viewed as being precious and valuable, and in Emily Dickinson’s perspective, a more worthwhile and higher standard currency than the currency of immortality. After all, one cannot literally buy time, especially when taking the concept of Fate into consideration. The speaker’s situation proposes an intriguing idea of consciousness. In a roundabout manner, the concept that Forever is composed of “nows,” that immortality is cheaper than Time, and that an individual can be compose of eternity suggests that one should be entirely conscious while being unconscious of these abstracts. In summation, we must live in the moment, but worrying about living in the moment or worrying about obtaining immortality as a substitute for infinity hinders our ability to grasp the “now.” Reference Poems 406 Some — Work for Immortality — The Chiefer part, for Time — He — Compensates — immediately — The former — Checks — on Fame — Slow Gold — but Everlasting — The Bullion of Today — Contrasted with the Currency Of Immortality — A Beggar — Here and There — Is gifted to discern Beyond the Broker's insight — One's — Money — One's — the Mine - 686 They say that “Time assuages”— Time never did assuage— An actual suffering strengthens As Sinews do, with age— Time is a Test of Trouble— But not a Remedy— If such it prove, it prove too There was no Malady— 765 You constituted Time — I deemed Eternity A Revelation of Yourself — 'Twas therefore Deity The Absolute — removed The Relative away — That I unto Himself adjust My slow idolatry —


Poem Interpretation; What do you think?

As a requirement for a class, I need to get more involved online and post some discussion about Emily Dickinson for our class unit. I would be interested in discussing further, my interpretation of a Johnson numbered poem. I'm going to attempt to dissect posm 1197. "I should not dare to be so sad So many Years again -- A Load is first impossible When we have put it down -- The Superhuman then withdraws And we who never saw The Giant at the other side Begin to perish now." This poem first struck me as something (as Emily Dickinson is so good at) intangibly truthful and appealing. It contains a very raw particle of human nature. In a general summary, my first impression is that Emily is reaching for an often untapped and often unrecognized human potential--something "Superhuman" or "Giant." The first stanza seems pretty direct and something I can relate to my recent volunteer work which involved wheel barrowing loads upon loads of gravel up and down hills and through mud. Point in case, it's easier to keep your momentum, even if you struggle, rather than stop part way and try to pick it up again. "A Load is first impossible/When we have put it down--" The second stanza makes me wonder about the Giant and what is the nature of this Giant? Is Emily intimating that the Giant is an obstacle we must overcome which we hadn't seen previously? Or perhaps she's intimating that beneath the exterior guise of a "Superhuman" there is a Giant, be it for good or bad, that we don't recognize. Something akin to the motivation or justification of the means to an end. Or that is to say that beneath every positive there is a negative which covertly fuels that positive. It's very easy to bend and imply and essentially attain "good" for all the "wrong" reasons. Hence the quote "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Alternatively, Emily seems to suggest that her years of sadness and years of heavy burden due to her sadness are not years she wishes to repeat. Because of this, it might be the Superhuman in the way of the Giant. If the Giant is looked at as the circumstance, circumstances often heal or improve on their own; it is the human mindset which forces them to live out their misery. Charles Dickens' Ms Havisham is very good example of this. This suggests that the power of psychology is what inhibits us from the natural process of healing.


Emily Dickinson Short Film

Hello! My name is Ladd Wendelin. I'm a resident of Lincoln, Nebraska, a high school language arts teacher, and a filmmaker. I'm no big-time filmmaker. Just a guy with a camera and a story to tell, and this is where Emily Dickinson comes in. But first, a bit of backstory. Back in the summer of 2010, I was unemployed and in school to become a teacher. Days lagged by, and in the midst of the summer heat and endless coursework, my mind drifted. This tedium only fueled my creative impulses, and as they say, I followed where the spirit led me. I remembered a story my sister, Greta, once told me. It wasn't so much a story really as a nugget of an idea - Emily Dickinson running around in a dinosaur costume scaring the citizens of Amherst. I remembered this story idea and went from there - how about include this story as part of a disastrous poetry reading? So I set about exploring, as I had in a previously short film, the relationship between fantasy and reality - the moment this line is crossed, how it is blurred, and the secret universe within ourselves and the danger of exposing it to others. I immediately set to writing the shooting script. It would be a silent film in black-and-white and also in color. It took about a month to film, and I decided to film in Lincoln and in Lawrence, Kansas, where Greta was attending the University of Kansas. Different and interesting locations would give the film flavor. Even better if local audiences wouldn't be able to immediately recognize them! I spent less than $200 to shoot the film, and to aid the finances (mostly to rent Emily's white dress from a costume shop), Greta and I sold giant cookies during an art gallery opening for $1, with the promise that their names would be included as "producers". All their names are listed in the end credits. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I (at this time) do not have proper clearance on the Elliott Smith song and Joy Division song that are used in the film, I've been unable to show the film to a wider audience, which I believe the film deserves. It has been well received otherwise, and my hope is that those who have an appreciation for Emily Dickison, her life, and her works will find it to be an enjoyable viewing experience. I tried very diligently to be true to who Emily Dickinson was, or, at least, whom I believed Emily Dickinson to be, but in doing so I also respectfully stretched the fabric of her existence and character in a way that works within the world of the short film. I hope you diehard Dickinson-heads will forgive me for that. In any case, I'd love to hear your feedback/comments, and hope someday to make the pilgrimage to Amherst to pay homage to the vision of a poetess who inspired me and my own craft. View at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG7IWc4zmFk Enjoy and Thanks! Ladd N Wendelin laddman@hotmail.com


Favourite Dickinson Category?

Of Emily's five categories (Life, Nature, Love, Time and Eternity, and The Single Hound) which was your favourite?? I'd also like to know people's favourite poem from each section. I've only read Life, Love, and bits and pieces of the others, but I'm pretty sure Life would be my favourite even if I read them all. It's almost too hard to choose a favourite: Perhaps "Every Life Converges to Some Centre" for Life And then I don't know about the rest.


Poetry Inspired by Emily Dickinson

Okay, I know that it is technically against forum rules to advertise one's personal website, but I really hope Admin will make an exception in this case. I'm not trying to sell anything, or make my website really popular or anything like that, I just want to share the poetry I have written that is on my website. Emily Dickinson is in my opinion the greatest poet ever. And a lot of my poetry is inspired by her work or has similar themes. My Poetry: Click Here. My Favourite Poems And Favourite Dickinson Poems: Click Here. I encourage all comments on my poetry or my favourite poems to be posted in this thread/forum. It's just so hard to be a poet without an audience or to express without anyone to express to. And obviously fans of Emily Dickinson would probably be the best audience. Again, to the moderaters, I very humbly ask that you don't delete my post.


emily dickinson poetry

Hi everyone i am interested in emily dickinson poetry, i want to know about the use of color in her poetry. Can you help me to find such kind of symbols in her poems. what are the most important poems in which she used the color purple and why? what does purple refer to in these poems?


The Soul has Bandaged moments - interpretation?

I'm having some difficulties trying to figure out what the Goblin actually stands for ..? The Soul has Bandaged moments - When too appalled to stir - She feels some gastly Fright come up And stop to look at her - Salute her - with long fingers- Caress her freezing hair - Sip, Goblin, from the very lips The Lover - hovered - o'er - Unworthy, that a thought so mean accost a Theme - so - fair - I figured that the Goblin could be her sexual desire or of some sort which she has been suppressing during the course of her love life (i.e. The Lover) But then, I thought she lived in recluse so I can't figure out who might this Lover be? Also, is the Goblin and the Fright basically the same thing? Could anyone please help me:angelsad2:? English is not my first language and I'm studying Emily Dickinson in school :eek:. I find her work really confusing :confused5:


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