By: Claire Hudson
Emily Dickinson was an American poet from Amherst, Massachusetts. She was 55 years old, born in 1830, and passed in 1886. She attended Mount Holyoke for one year but was rumored to have left because of religious discrimination. Emily’s father, Edward Dickinson, was heavily involved in congress and politics, while her brother Austin married a woman named Susan Gilbert. Emily’s mother also went by the name Emily because she was named after her mother. She also had a sister Lavinia who was close in age to her. Her family often did not consider her brilliant or worth anything. Her father believed that Austin was the genius of the family and Emily was just a girl who needed to be married off.
Emily never got married, but she found comfort in a man named Benjamin Newton, a law student who worked in her father’s office. From Ben, she received some books that inspired her writing, like Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emily used phrases such as “My dying Tutor,” “The first of my own friends”, and “a gentle, yet grave Preceptor” as a way to describe him. Many scholars believe Emily may have been platonically in love with Ben until his death. Ben married in 1851, but he still sent her Emerson poems, guiding her writing and teaching her many lessons. Ben died from tuberculosis in 1853.
Emily’s complete work was never published because it is believed that she would have had to warp many of her poems to be more suitable for the public, which she did not want to do. She was known for her bold original verse, haunting personal voice, and literary brilliance. During her life, she did have ten poems published. After her death, scholar Thomas H. Johnson published her work in many books.
Sue Gilbert was Emily’s sister-in-law, and there are rumors that Sue was not just her best friend, and before she got married to Austin; she was more. The two were thought to have an intimate relationship, while Sue was one of the only people she would share her poems with.
As it is known today, Emily has many pieces of work, some more famous than others. Firstly, I am nobody…who are you is a poem that showcases her unique writing style exploring ideas of how fame is not always the best and how some people do not prefer public recognition. Next, I heard a fly buzz – when I died is a poem surrounding the idea of death, which Emily often explored. She seemed to be fascinated by death and that a fly was a symbol of death to her. This poem most likely shows how Emily viewed the transition between life and death. Lastly, Hope is the thing with feathers that uses an extended metaphor, a bird living within the soul. The bird sings come rain or shine, gale or storm, good times or bad. Emily’s unique writing was intriguing, and she is considered one of the greatest poets to live.