Emily Dickinson

Key points

  • Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on 10 December 1830 and died 15 May 1886.
  • As an adult, Dickinson became a reclusive and eccentric figure, limiting her face-to-face contact with friends and visitors and wearing white.
  • She wrote about 1,800 poems, mainly untitled, that were discovered in bundled packages in her bedroom by her sister. Less than 15 of her poems were published during her lifetime. Her poetry mainly focused on the themes of immortality, nature, death and Christianity, and featured unconventional use of dashes and capitalisation.
  • She is widely regarded as one of the great American poets.
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Teen reading poetry

The poetic style of Dickinson

  • Emily Dickinson's work is characterised by unorthodox use of capitals and punctuation. She broke the rules of conventional grammar and rhyme.
  • As a result, her sentences are sometimes compressed and difficult to understand – particularly for those new to her poetry. The Emily Dickinson Lexicon is a handy resource.
  • Many of Dickinson's poems have a hymn-like quality.
  • In many of Dickinson's poems, she uses concrete language to describe and explore abstract concepts (eg her poem Hope is the Thing with Feathers).

 



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