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Emily Dickinson

Term Definition
Emily Dickinson

Most of Emily Dickenson's poems were stylistically innovative. For example, they usually contained slant rhymes (i.e. near-rhymes that sounded good but were not technically rhymes), lacked titles, and made use of idiosyncratic punctuation. One of her favorite themes was immortality. She spent much of her life in solitude, with the vast majority of her work as a poet being discovered only after her death and published posthumously.

Early life and poetry beginnings

Emily Dickinson was a well-known American poet who continues to be influential and prominent in the literary world today, more than two centuries after her death. Born in Massachusetts in 1830, she was rather reclusive and known for being an introvert. Though she authored an astounding nearly eighteen hundred poems, fewer than a dozen of them were published during her lifetime. What is more, those that were published while she was alive were heavily edited by publishers in order to appease the styles of the times. Her work was unique for the times, as they contained unconventional capitalization and punctuation, short line, and rarely had titles.

Emily Dickinson's popular poetry

As stated previously, Emily Dickinson was the author of nearly eighteen hundred poems over her lifetime. Some of the most popular include:

- Because I Could Not Stop for Death

- A Light Exists in Spring

- Death Sets a Thing Significant

- Hope is the Thing with Feathers

- Before You Thought of Spring

T’is So Much Joy!

- The Only News I Know

- Much Madness

- I Dwell in Possibility

- Wild nights- Wild nights!

- Much Madness is Divinest Sense

The majority of her published works were published after her death in large volumes, often containing many poems in one book. In addition, her letters were published in three separate volumes.

Creating a new style of poetry

Emily Dickinson’s writing style is most certainly unique. She used extensive dashes, dots, and unconventional capitalization, in addition to vivid imagery and idiosyncratic vocabulary. Instead of using pentameter, she was more inclined to use trimester, tetrameter, and even dimeter at times. Her use of regular meter was not very common, as she favored irregular meter instead. She most often wrote in ballad stanza, which is divided into quatrains and uses tetrameter for the first and third lines while utilizing trimester for the second and fourth lines and rhyming the second and fourth lines. 

Spritiuality, love for nature and preoccupation with death - Emily Dickinson's style

Emily Dickinson’s work often centered around five of the same things- gardens and flowers, the ‘master’ poems, morbidity, the gospel, and the undiscovered continent. Due to the wide variety of these themes, it is hard to fit her into any one specific genre.

Many of Dickinson’s letter and poems mention flowers and allude to gardens and imaginative and magical realms. She often associates flowers with humility and insight and generally sent her letters accompanied by a nosegay, or small bouquet. 

Emily Dickinson often wrote poems addressed to ‘Sir’ or ‘Master’. This person's identity remains a mystery, but her family has speculated that perhaps they were meant for an actual individual, though scholars reject this idea and perhaps suggest that the Master has godlike characteristics and categorize this being as a sort of muse.

She also often writes about morbidity. She always possessed a fascination with death and illness and she often speaks of premature burial, hanging, suffocation, stabbing, and guillotines. Historians see this preoccupation with death as an expression of her needy self-image. 

Dickinson addressed several of her poems to Jesus and emphasized the contemporary pertinence of the gospel. She uses wit and colloquial language to present these ancient themes in a lighter, more modernly relatable way.

The last theme that Emily Dickinson often wrote about is the undiscovered continent. Scholars consider this place to be an expression of a tangible and visitable place, both intense and private. This sort of landscape of her mind and spirit is rich with imagery of nature, though it also includes several dark and foreboding images, using prisons and castles to represent being trapped within one’s own mind.

Emily Dickinson was an incredibly prolific and influential writer, though her genius was work was not appreciated until after her death. Her unique and honest style created personal and emotionally relatable work. These things continue to make her work popular in the modern literary world.

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