Hope is the thing with feathers, by Evan Robertson in 'Hope is the thing: A Collection of Poem by Emily Dickinson', Obvious State (New York), 2020
Welcome to an Introduction to Emily Dickinson. This guide is designed to introduce undergraduate English Literature students to the works of Emily Dickinson, and provide a range of resources to help them critically engage with and evaluate her poems, including primary material, biographies, commentaries, databases, audio-visual material, and academic support resources.
There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –
None may teach it – Any –
’Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –
When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –
Emily Dickinson, daguerreotype, ca. 1847. (Amherst College Archives & Special Collections, gift of Millicent Todd Bingham, 1956)
Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was extremely prolific as a poet and regularly enclosed poems in letters to friends. However, she only published seven of her poems anonymously in the public domain, and was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. She never married, and died in Amherst in 1886.
Upon her death, her family discovered nearly 1800 poems among Dickinson's belongings, some of which were personally sewn and bound in sets known as 'fascicles'. The first volume of her work was published posthumously in 1890, and was initially edited and redacted according to nineteenth century aesthetics by Dickinson's personal acquaintances. The original content and order of the poems was not restored until editions by Thomas H. Johnson in 1975 and Ralph W. Franklin in 1981 were published, which endeavored to restore the original text and establish a chronology.
Emily Dickinson is known for her use of vivid imagery, lyricism and musicality, intense thematic explorations of love, death, and the self, and her unique writing style. She used extensive dots, dashes, and uncustomary capitalisation in her poems, and favoured trimeter and tetrameter over the conventional pentameter. One of the most distinctive aspects of her poetry was the use of slant rhyme, which defied the conventions of perfect rhyming schemes popular in the nineteenth century. Dickinson was mythologised as a recluse, and given the moniker 'Woman in White' in her later years due her preference for wearing white dresses. Recent scholarship shows that she had a rich social life and connections, exemplified through her surviving letters and her intimate relationship with her sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson.
This summary was written by the librarian drawing on the resources contained in this Library Guide.
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