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Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830 in the quiet community of Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily Dickinson was raised in a quiet, reserved family. Her father was a very authoritative person and her mother was not emotionally accessible. Her parent’s personality was probably the main reason of Emily’s eccentricity. Emily was raised in the Christian tradition, and she was expected to take up their father’s religious beliefs and values without argument.
However, later, her poems illustrate how Emily challenges these conventional religious points of view of her father and the church, and how this new perspective contributes in the way and strength of her poetry.
Knowing that her family was well known in the area for its educational and political activity and before Emily started writing poetry, it is important to emphasize that Emily was a proper educated individual. She attended the Amherst Academy. After her time at the Academy, Emily left for the South Hadley Female Seminary but severe homesickness led her to return home after one year. This was basically the beginning of Dickinson’s life of solitude. This solitude could lead her to focus on her world and to start writing her first conventional style poems. Some years later, she started building her particular style in which she introduces different literacy characteristics to her poems making her a unique writer.
Dickinson’s works have had considerable influence on contemporary and modern poetry. She used certain characteristics that made her style unique. Sporadic capitalization, dashes, unconventional metaphors, off-rhymes and broken meter are some of the most frequent aspects Dickinson used.
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AFTER GREAT PAIN, A FORMAL FEELING COMES
After great pain, a formal feeling comes-
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs-
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?
From this short piece of Emily’s poem, it can be visualized how she made sporadic capitalization of nouns. According to some editors, this could be explained by two reasons. First, German, a language Dickinson Knew, typically capitalizes nouns. And second, editors believe that by capitalizing words, Dickinson wanted to give an additional emphasis and meaning to the words. In addition, it can be seeing from the poem how she uses the dashes. Even though it was not usual in contemporary writers to use dashes, Dickinson adopted it as an instrument to indicate interruption or abrupt shift in thought, to keep a note of uncertainty or undesirability, and in a certain way to substitute the colon when introducing a list, series, or final appositive.
As many writers, Dickinson was very influenced by the outside environment in which she was living. She faces loneliness, love, death, civil war and more. Even though it is very difficult to be specific in some aspects, editors speculate that most of the Emily’s love poems are based on the experience she had with two possible love candidates; Wadsworth and Bowless.
On the other hand, the editors are more specific in some other topics such as solitude and death. They affirm that her obsession in topics of death and loneliness are based on the tremendous loses she had when almost all her family and friends died before her. Similarly, when the United States faced the civil war, Dickinson continued writing poetry. However, in some cases, editors agree that she changed her style and point of view probably due to the war.
The important aspect about this is the beautiful and intelligent act of the writer by expressing all those feelings and situations in her poems. This did not just help the writer to express her ideas and feelings, but also it left us a literacy legacy in which the modern and future readers are going to be able to visualize the point of view of previous writers and how they were affected by outside stimulus. This is basically the same influential process that Dickinson experienced when she met Charles Wadsworth and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. They were influential individuals that created new ways of inspiration and some guidance techniques.
Even though Dickinson just published few poems when she was alive, she did not know how important her writing was going to be for the American literature. Thanks to her sister, Dickinson is now known as a solitude and very successful poetry writer.
Dickinson’s sister was the one who brought out her poems. She co-edited three volumes, and transcribed and published several poems. Her poems represent an important influence on the modern poetry. Her eccentric style makes of Dickinson an original and innovative writer.
And, her strength to express her point of view could be seen as the beginning of a feminism movement. Basically, Dickinson’s life is a very interesting and amazing story told by her when she used her poetry.
• Capps, Jack L. Emily Dickinson's Reading: 1836-1886. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1966.
• Duchac, Joseph. Poems of Emily Dickinson: An Annotated Guide to Commentary Published in English, 1890-1977. Boston: Hall, 1979.
• Loeffelholz, Mary. Dickinson and the Boundaries of Feminist Theory. 1991.