D is for Emily Dickinson, Extraordinary Women #AtoZ Challenge
Daguerrotype of 16 year old Emily Dickinson, Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.
Emily Dickinson – what a lovely, gentle expression she had- was born on the 10th of December 1830, and died on the 15th of May, 1886, in Ameherst, Massachussetts.
She studied at Ameherst Acadamy for seven years and then went for just a year to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.
But then she hardly left home again – practically a recluse she mixed mainly with her family, and became more reluctant to greet visitors as she became older – her friendships were carried out mainly by correspondence.
She spent much of her time in her bedroom, writing poetry; only a handful of which was published in her lifetime, and that altered by the publishers to fit the conventional rules of the time.
On her death, her sister Lavinia discovered her collections of poems – and the breadth and quantity of her work became clear.
Emily had invented her own system of bookmaking by folding paper and sewing sixteen to twenty four pages into ‘packets’. These contained poems written in a unique style for that era – usually without titles, using slant rhyme as well as conventional, and she had invented her own sort of punctuation which consisted of feather light marks, often vertical, on the manuscript.
It may be that we will never know how she would have liked her poems to be printed, as she also used unconventional capitalisations and line and stanza divisions.
Many of the poems were about death and immortality, subjects also often discussed in her letters to friends. Many of the people in her close world died. Other subjects were flowers and gardens, nature, gospel, poems that were confessional and which could be addressed to individuals or a muse (opinion is divided!).
What is sure though is that her poems have given much pleasure since their publication, and that she is one of the great American poets, and an extraordinary woman.
Below is the manuscript of her poem Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Wild Nights – Wild Nights!