Emily Dickinson is one of the most well known poets of her time. Though her life was outwardly uneventful, what went on inside her house behind closed doors is unbelievable. After her father died she met Reverend Charles Wadsworth. She soon came to regard him as one of her most trusted friends, and she created in his image the ‘lover’; whom she was never to know except in her imagination. It is also said that it was around 1812 when he was removed to San Fransico that she began her withdrawal from society. During this time she began to write many of her poems. She wrote mainly in private, guarding all of her poems from all but a few select friends. She did not write for fame, but instead as a way of expressing her feelings. In her lifetime only six of her poems were even printed; none of which had her consent. It was not until her death of Brights Disease in May of 1862, that many of her poems were even read (Chelsea House of Library Criticism 2837). Thus proving that the analysis on Emily Dickinson’s poetry is some of the most emotionally felt works of the nineteenth century.
Miss Dickinson is often compared with other poets and writers, but ‘like Shakespeare, Miss Dickinson is without opinions’; (Tate 86). ‘Her verses and technical license often seem mysterious and can confuse critics, but after all is said, it is realized that like most poets Miss Dickinson is no more mysterious than a banker. It is said that Miss Dickinson’s life was starved and unfulfilled and yet all pity is misdirected. She lived one of the richest and deepest lives ever on this continent. It was her own conscious choice to deliberately withdraw from society into her upstairs room;#8230;’; (Tate 83). She kept to ‘only a few select friends and the storm, wind, wild March sky, sunsets, dawns, birds, bees, and butterflies were sufficient companionship for Miss Dickinson’; (Loomis 79). She dealt with a lot both physically and psychologically and in the end she still came out on the top. So as Allen Tate best said it ‘in her own historical setting Miss Dickinson is nevertheless remarkable and special’; (82).
Thomas Higginson said that ‘the main quality of her poems is that of extraordinary grasp and insight, uttered with an uneven vigor, which was all her own’; (78). The works and phrases she uses shows that she was unconcerned with the fact that no one else could understand her poetry, but instead, she was satisfied by using mere words in order to fit her own ear (Higginson 78). Miss Dickinson’s poetry was strictly confidential and written without the purpose of publication and merely as a way of expressing her own mind (Bloom 2838). ‘Art forms were totally unknown to her, and nature was always viewed not in a cosmic way but in its smallest and most intimate forms’; (Whicher 87). Allen Tate describes her biggest influence to be nature itself, and though she could not deal with the problems of society, she had such an attitude toward life that she was able to see into this character of nature more deeply than any other (84). Miss Dickinson’s poetry style contains ‘flashes of wholly original and profound insight into nature and life’; (Chelsea House of Library Criticism 2841). ‘At first impression her tiny lyrics appear to be no more than the jottings of a half-idiotic school-girl instead of grave musings of a full grown, fully educated woman’; (Monro 81). Miss Dickinson often writes out of habit allowing her poems to not require a point of view, but instead, they require for some of the deepest understanding, which allows her style to emerge even when she has nothing to say (Tate 86-87). Some consider her works to be the most original of her time, written with an unusual amount of emotion and often referred to as ‘;#8230;poetry torn up by its roots with rain, dew and earth still clinging to them’; (Higginson 78). To others she was considered to be ‘intellectually blind, partially dead, and mostly dumb to the art of poetry’; (Monro 81). It was best stated by Allen Tate when he wrote, ‘she can not reason at all; she can only see’; (84).
Although her poems were written with deep intensity, it seems that her favorite themes were thunderstorms, sunsets, and snow, and yet at the same time they were all somehow related to some angle of her house or garden (Whicher 87). There also remained a deep sense of mystery and a desire to know the why of things (Chelsea House of Library Criticism 2841).
Harold Bloom said, ‘her best poetry is not concerned with the causes but with the qualities of pain’; (19), which allows her to deal with the feelings ‘that the God of her fathers, when she most wished to lean on Him, was disconcertingly not there’; (Whicher 87). Throughout her poetry there runs a current of sadness with just a touch of sparkling humor (Chelsea House of Library Criticism 2845) issuing her poems ‘a tension between the abstraction and sensation in which the two elements may be distinguished logically but not really’; (Tate 84). Her symbol of nature was death, and her only weapon against death was her faith (Tate 84). She realizes that it is when a man’s faith runs dry that he must refresh his soul with the sanity, which lies only in nature (Whicher 87).
‘Miss Dickinson possessed an extremely unconventional and grotesque fancy. Blake’s mysticism and Emerson’s mannerism held a very strong influence on her style’; (Chelsea House of Library Criticism 2841). She wrote for no one except herself and often about death, burial and the unknown life beyond, leaving every ground open for legitimate study (Todd 78).
Miss Dickinson lived much of her life alone and rarely even left her father’s house. ‘She dwelt in seclusion, socially, physically, and psychologically’; (Monro 81). It wasn’t because she was an invalid, rather, ‘Miss Dickinson became a hermit by deliberate and conscious choice’; (Tate 83). ‘She had tried society and found it lacking’; (Todd 78). Allen Tate writes, ‘if it were necessary to describe her seclusion with disappointment in love there would remain the problem between what her seclusion produced and how it was viewed’; (Tate 83).
Her most vivid symbol would be nature, and this is where she allows so many of her deepest feelings to run free. Nature allows Miss Dickinson to be herself and to find herself. This is her only connection to her God, and it is in nature that she finds her strengths. She believes that there is a God, but where he is, she does not know. The only thing she feels sure about is the fact that she is going to die, and when she does, her soul will live on in some way. Her seclusion is a main factor because she wishes to separate herself from the outside, creating in her a more simple heart. She believes that once a person is alone from the world they are separated from the corruption. Miss Dickinson made this choice to deal with her own depression in this way.
Miss Dickinson may have been very psychologically disturbed, but the impact she has left on our society is amazing. No other poet could compare with the deep emotion that is so carefully placed in her works. She has amazed many critics with her forms and she will continue to do so as long as people will take the time to not only read her poems in their heads but also with their minds, hearts, and souls.