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Emily Dickinson Bookmark Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

“If I feel physically, as if the top of my head were taken off, I know, that is poetry.”

She was an odd woman—reclusive, almost monastic. Except for one homesick year as an undergraduate at Mt. Holyoke, she lived all her life in her father’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts. After the age of forty, she never left the family property. When visitors came, she would often refuse to see them, and sometimes talked to them through an ajar door. She cooked, she baked, she gardened, and she wrote her poems.

Her efforts were mostly in secret. Of the nearly 1,800 gem-like poems she wrote, only 10 were published in her lifetime, some of those against her will. Some she enclosed in letters to family and friends. But no one suspected that when Dickinson died at the age of 56, they would find dozens of small booklets of the poems neatly tucked in a drawer in her bureau.

The poems had been carefully copied out in longhand and sewn together with needle and thread. Dashes were the only punctuation. Capitals were used for emphasis. They employed unconventional rhythms and rhymes. In almost total isolation she’d revolutionized American poetry, and written some of the greatest poems of her century.
Emily Dickinson
(1830–1886)