Today is the anniversary of the birth of Emily Dickinson.
According to an article on Poet.org (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/emily-dickinson),
Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts… Throughout her life, she seldom left her home and visitors were few.
By the 1860s, Dickinson lived in almost complete isolation from the outside world, but actively maintained many correspondences and read widely. She spent a great deal of this time with her family.
Dickinson’s poetry was heavily influenced by the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England, as well as her reading of the Book of Revelation and her upbringing in a Puritan New England town, which encouraged a Calvinist, orthodox, and conservative approach to Christianity.
In an extensive article on Dickinson, the Poetry Foundation (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/emily-dickinson) asserts,
Like writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman, she experimented with expression in order to free it from conventional restraints.
While I probably ran across some of Emily Dickinson’s work as a young reader or in middle school, the first time I remember reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson was during high school. In 11th grade English, we studied American writers, which in those days meant we studied mostly white, male writers. During that year, Emily Dickinson was a breath of fresh female air for me.
I enjoyed Dickinson’s unconventional punctuation. It was sometimes maddening, but I appreciated that she wasn’t afraid to break the rules. (In all my years in public school English classes, there were big penalties for breaking the rules.) About Dickinson’s punctuation, Poets.org says,
[her]handwritten poems show a variety of dash-like marks of various sizes and directions (some are even vertical)…many early editors…removed her unusual and varied dashes, replacing them with traditional punctuation. The current standard version of her poems replaces her dashes with an en-dash, which is a closer typographical approximation to her intention.
I liked Dickinson’s rhyme schemes too. Her slant rhymes were surprising and exhilarating to this girl who’d been living a life of rhyming perfection
Dickinson’s poetry appealed to my adolescent depression as well. While many of her poems are uplifting, just as many are about loneliness and unrequited love and death. While Dickinson and I were physically separated by over one hundred years, when I read her poems, it was as if we knew each other.
As a teenager, I appreciated Dickinson’s spunk and her dedication to her writing; I still appreciate those qualities today. Here was this woman who hardly ever left her father’s house, yet she wrote and she wrote and she wrote and she wrote. According to Poets.org,
[u]pon her death, Dickinson’s family discovered forty handbound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems…
Only a few of Dickinson’s poems were published during her lifetime. She was not publicly recognized as a poet while she lived. Her first volume work was not published until four years after her death. Yet, she kept on writing.
Sometimes I feel as if my writing is drifting off into a void. (This blog was originally called Throwing Stories Into the Ether.) Is anyone reading? Does what I write matter? Will I be remembered? Then I think of Emily Dickinson, and I keep on writing.