Emily Dickinson

July 18, 2017

Emily Dickinson was one of the most influential poets of the nineteenth century. Hers is a name that even non-writers seem universally familiar with, and as for those people with a penchant for reading and writing, her work—famous for its innovative use of dashes—has captivated many of us since high school. Dickinson’s life, however, remains less familiar. Many people know that she never married and that she spent much of her life holed up at home, but that’s often the extent of it. So what, one might ask, did she even do? Well, we know she wrote poetry. She also studied botany, and she wrote hundreds upon hundreds of letters. That’s right, Dickinson may have been physically secluded from the world, but she was not an asocial being. Some of her letters even indicate that she might have been involved in a number of romances. Specifically, her famous “Master Letters” indicate that she may have had a lover, although scholars have struggled to identify the intended recipient of those letters, or even whether or not the letters were ever sent. It’s also possible that those letters were written to God, although Dickinson belonged to no particular Christian denomination. Avoiding religion was an unusual decision in nineteenth century Massachusetts, and it was hardly the only

unusual thing about Dickinson and her writing. You see, another fascinating detail about Dickinson’s letters is that they often look and read like poetry. (Again, her use of dashes is prolific.) It seems this woman just couldn’t stop creating, and what she created was absolutely beautiful.

 

Last year, my sister and my mother came across a book titled Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings. Sweethearts that they are, they bought the book as a gift for me, knowing that I was studying Dickinson in one of my English classes, Letters and/as Literature. The book contains the drafts of poems, mostly scribbled on the backs of envelopes. I leave you with one of those drafts to admire. Perhaps it will serve as a reminder that everything is a vehicle for creative writing, or that even the greats wrote first drafts (and that those first drafts were generally far from perfect, just like yours). Perhaps it will simply serve as a vehicle for enjoyment. Either way, I bid you a lovely week, full of reading, writing, maybe even love letters.

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