To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. The daughter of a prominent family in Amherst, Massachusetts, she was known in the community for being an eccentric; she rarely left her home and most of her contact with the outside world was through letter correspondence with friends.
Unbeknown to most, she was a prolific poet; indeed, she composed some 1800, though only a dozen were ever published in her lifetime. Much of her work covered themes of faith, death, flowers, and employed unusual grammar and syntax for the day. Because of this, they were heavily edited by anthologies, and after her death, by her family. It was not until nearly half a century later that her works would be published unedited. Today, she is considered one of the most innovative and influential of American poets.
A large amount of her work can be found here.
Depictions in media
- A Quiet Passion (2016): Portrayed by Cynthia Nixon (Adult Emily) and Emma Bell (Young Emily).
- Wild Nights With Emily (2018): Portrayed by Molly Shannon (Adult Emily) and Dana Melanie (Young Emily).
- Dickinson (2019–2021): Portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld.
The Woman In White
- Ambiguously Gay: It's theorized that Emily may have had romantic feelings for her friend, Sue Gilbert, who would later marry Emily's brother. She would write letters to Sue detailing how she had thoughts and feelings for her that make her feel feverish and her heart to start racing. She also sided with Sue against her brother Austin Dickinson in a family feud that started when Austin had an affair with a younger woman and is still going on in Amherst.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Not only in lifestyle, but also in her style of writing.
- Common Meter: Many of her works were intentionally written in the meter of hymns like "Amazing Grace", such as "Because I could not stop for Death". This makes them handy to sing to tunes like "The Yellow Rose of Texas" or the Gilligan's Island theme.
- Curtains Match the Windows: Had red hair and eyes, though she described her hair as 'chestnut' because red hair was considered unattractive and morally suspect at the time.
- Dead Artists Are Better: No more than 12 of Emily Dickinson's works were published during her lifetime; these were heavily edited for punctuation and style by the editors. Only after her death were the vast majority of her unedited, unpublished poems recovered.
- Don't Fear the Reaper: "Because I could not stop for Death" is probably the Trope Codifier of the kindly/friendly depiction of Death.
- Executive Meddling: Editors, and later her descendants, would change her work to be more in line with the style of contemporary works.
- Loners Are Freaks: She spent most of her life secluded from the world, and she was known for being... odd. Downplayed, however, in that she did still see her family and communicated with her close friends via letters, and by most accounts Emily was quite nice and a Friend to All Children.note
- Nightmare Fetishist: One of her longer poems can be interpreted as describing her being courted by Death incarnate.
- No Title: Most of her poems are identified by their first line, or by number.
- Queer Flowers: One of her most famous poems about Susan Gilbert refers to violets lying in her eye.Still in her EyeThe Violets lie
- Punctuation Shaker: One of the defining styles of her work. Common are dashes - and "odd apostrophes", with Important Words Capitalized. This can cause some problems. Typesetters have difficulty honoring the varying lengths and angles of her handwritten dashes.
- Reclusive Artist: Particularly near the end of her life, Emily would never leave the house, and communicated with her close friends only through letters. She still managed to live a rather social life despite this.
- Shrinking Violet: One of the iconic examples! Even before she became a recluse, she was noted to seem uneasy in social situations.
- Used to Be More Social: She became a notorious shut-in.
- The World Is Just Awesome: Her poems describe the world and nature as an amazing intense beauty, which overwhelms her too much to handle it all for too long.