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Updated: Nov 7, 2020


Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. She is considered as one of America’s greatest poets. Her childhood was quite ordinary with her father Edward Dickinson and mother Emily Norcross Dickinson. She was the second of three children, older brother William Austin and younger sister Lavinia (Vinnie). Emily took a serious interest in writing poetry in her late teens and early 20s. She had always been a letter writer and had crafted some poem as a child. Her father brought her a puppy and she named the dog Carlo. She mentioned Carlo in some of her poem as well.

Emily read as much as she could. Poets Emily Bronte and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were two of her favorites. They inspired Dickinson to write her own poetry. By her 20s Dickinson was writing seriously. She shared hundreds of her poems with her sister-in-law, Susan. There were many poems kept hidden in her drawer. She wrote the poems, sewed the pages together to create small books, and tucked the books away.

While a number of Dickinson’s poems were sad or dealt with loss, others were lively and upbeat. Many of her poems show a sense of hope. She enjoyed nature and often wrote about outdoors in her poems. Dickinson also had a vivid imagination. She loved to read literature and mythology and would sometimes use mythology in her poems. Her imagination allowed her to visit places she had never seen in person. Also her poems have both unclear ideas followed by very clear ideas. She did not follow the rules of writing, such as punctuation, spelling or capitalization. She uses dashes and capitalization to draw attention to ideas or words. She would use slant rhymes (words that nearly rhymed, but not exactly).

Dickinson looked at the world through fresh eyes, and crafted highly original poems. For her, good poetry affected the reader physically. Only ten of Dickinson’s poems were published in newspapers or magazines during her lifetime. These poems were published anonymously (without an author’s name). In the last 20 years of her life, Dickinson did not write in the same ways she had as a younger woman. After too many loss she became ill with Bright’s disease and died on May 15, 1886. After Dickinson died, Vinnie destroyed her sister’s letter, which was the custom at the time. But while she was searching through Emily’s things, Vinnie discovered 40 small handmade books filled with almost 1,800 poems of her sister.

Her Works:

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