Emily Dickinson: life, ideas and poems

Transgression, imagination, complexity: this is what the life of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), which, if at first glance it may seem simple and withdrawn, reveals itself to a more attentive eye fascinating And full of facetsjust like them hundreds of compositions which she composed sitting at the desk in her room.

Here is a journey into his biographyin features of his writing and in some of his most famous versesdiscovered and appreciated only in the decades following the death of American poet

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social transgression

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830 in the town of Amherst (Massachusetts), From one wealthy family and above all very visible: the not no in fact he founded theAmherst Collegethe father it’s a lawyer who will later become a member of the American Congress and the mother is a discreet personality, very attached to Puritan traditions.

From them Emily Dickinson learns the rigorthe importance of religion and above all ofinstructionalthough not even a year after enrolling in the prestigious Mount Holyoke Female Seminary of New England decides to drop out of studies at the urging of his father too, because he has no intention of publicly profess the Christian religionas instead she is asked in class.

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Then continue yours training at home, alonewhere he receives many as a gift from his father books that he, however, please do not read, for fear that his ideas so far from the sensibility of the time could be further encouraged. Emily Dickinson, however, does not stop enjoy readingand matures a taste increasingly inspired by the works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), John Milton (1608-1674), Emily Bronte (1818-1848) and Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855).

As if that weren’t enough, while indulging in a few sporadic trip and some visit to close friends and relatives, Emily Dickinson generally chooses to do not leave his roomtransforming the domestic walls into the limits of his personal world in order to do not attend churchfrom don’t get married and not having to entertain superficial and facade relationships with the bourgeois society of his time.

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The poetic imagination

Despite the white clothes which he always wears as a sign of purity and his choice to live in the name of solitude he was born in recollection (perhaps also due to gods Health problems and to some unrequited love), Emily Dickinson – instead of dying out – develops aimagination increasingly fervent and an ability to compose verses who does not abandon her even during hers nature walksor between the lines of letters who writes to his most trusted correspondents.

Beyond his family, also made up of the brother Austinfrom the sister Lavinia and from dog Charlesthe poet weaves in fact close and sincere relationships with the people of her entourage whom she esteems most, as well as with some prominent characters of the moment. There is no doubt among them Benjamin F. Newtona lawyer employed by his father, who enthusiastically reads his compositions and sends them to them many tips.

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Contact with the transcendentalist writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), by whose vision she was greatly influenced, she also became a friend of the director of the Springfield Daily Republican Samuel Bowles (1826-1878), of the poetess Kate Anton Scott (1831-1917) and of the writer Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), from which he receives praise And appreciations for the few poems he is convinced to submit to their attention.

What marks his existence and his work most of all are, however, Susan Gilberta brilliant and sensitive woman who will later marry his brother Austin, and for whom Emily Dickinson claims to feel a platonic love comparable to that between Dante and Beatrice; the reverend Charles Wadsworthof which the poetess falls in love despite knowing that the man is already married and with children; and the judge Otis Phillips Lordfamily friend who remains a widower and who would like to marry hereven if due to paternal pressure the proposal is rejected.

These dating and the sensations that arouse in Emily Dickinson are found in many of her verses, along with the pain of disappearance of the father, of Samuel Bowles, of the mother, of the beloved nephew Thomas Gilbert and of Judge Lord, who one after the other they leave a deep void in the soul of the poet up to her own deathwhich occurred due to a kidney disease on May 15, 1886, when the writer has 55 years old.

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The Complexity of Emily Dickinson

When, after his death, his sister discovers in a drawer of his room a bundle of sheets folded and sewn together with needle and thread, suddenly comes to light the prolific and surprising production by Emily Dickinson (talking about almost 1800 compositions), long contention between his birth family and Susan Gilbert, with the result that only in the 1955 comes out there first critical edition of all his poems edited by Thomas H. Johnsonfollowed in 1998 From one revision of his lyrics edited by Ralph W. Franklin.

Cover of the book Poems by Emily Dickinson

If therefore, while he was alive, the compositions of Emily Dickinson were little valued and discouraged from being publishedlater his poetics was admired unanimously, while arousing many doubts due to its complexity. On the other hand, we are faced with a writing that apparently speaks of simple and everyday elementsor in other cases of big themes as the deathL’lovethe solitude and the relationship with natureWith the’art and with Godbut that to be fully understood needs a attentive and sensitive eye.

In fact, there are many philosophical referencesties with the greats historical events of that period, the metaphors which elaborates, the references to the English literature of previous centuries and above all the allusions to people whom Emily Dickinson met face to face, ai feelings who felt for them, at disappointments or at beliefs who have never left her.

Cover of the book Let Me Be Your Summer by Emily Dickinson

All this contributes to making her an intellectual from refined penable to break certain rhyme schemes to arrive at one more modern compositionoften characterized by the presence of uppercase And dashes. Among the most famous verses of him, we report here in particular one short poem about loveone on writingone on nature and one on the experience of lostin the Italian translation of Joseph Ierolli:

May Love be all there is

May Love be all there is
That’s all we know about love,
That’s enough, the load must be
Proportionate to the groove.

A word is dead when it is said

A word is dead when it is said
Some say –
I say that it begins to live instead
That day

“Nature” is what we see

“Nature” is what we see –
The Hill – the Afternoon –
The Squirrel – the Eclipse – the Bumblebee –
More – Nature is Heaven –

“Nature” is what we hear –
The Bobolink – the Sea –
The Thunder – the Cricket –
More – Nature is Harmony –

“Nature” is what we know –
But we don’t have the Art to say –
So impotent is our Wisdom
In front of His Sincerity –

I was holding a Jewel between my fingers

I held a Jewel between my fingers –
And I fell asleep –
The day was hot, and the winds were monotonous –
I said, “It will stay” –

I awoke – and scolded the guilty fingers,
The Gem was gone –
And now, the memory of an Amethyst
It’s all I have –

Cover of the book Draw me a picture of the sun by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson today

Compared to theimportance coated in the American landscape to the writer Walt Whitman (1819-1892), and for his technique and visionary ability a William Blake (1757-1827), Emily Dickinson is now recognized as one of the most significant and original voices of contemporary poetry, to the point of having inspired several film adaptationsincluding the biopic A Quiet Passiondirected in 2016 by Terence Davies, and comedy Wild Nights with Emilydirected in 2018 by Madeleine Olnek.

In 2022 she also became the protagonist of the children’s volume Words have wings (Rizzoli, translation by Beatrice Masini), written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Becca Stadtlanderin which his life is told in the form of aadventure among the small and large discoveries of every day, while from 2019 it is available on Apple+ the TV series Dickinsoncreated by Alena Smith.

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The latter, in particular, has generated a intense debate which saw those who retained the interpretation of oppose each other Hailee Steinfeld too much modern And sassy and who, on the other hand, argued that the figure of Emily Dickinson actually was more rebellious and lively of what she has been painted for years, appreciating the fresh and captivating cut with which we have tried to make her personality captivate the new generations.

However you think about it, one thing is certain: thepublic and critical interest towards Emily Dickinson remains to this day as alive as ever, proving that his talent innate, it thickness of his verses and the multiplicity of themes who chose to face were by now internationally recognizedand loved by thousands of readers of all ages.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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