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Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She died in the same place on May 15, 1886. Today people know her as a fascinating, talented writer. Most of the pieces Emily wrote were poems. Emily was a very isolated individual. She rarely ever got out or had any contact with anybody outside of her home. Along with writing her poems she wrote letters to the people that she did have contact with. In the letters that she would write there would be poems somewhere within them. Emily wrote a total of 1,775 poems in her lifetime. Even though she wrote these poems she never let it be known that she had the capability to write poems with such elegance. All of the poems that she would write she kept hidden somewhere in her room. She would hide the poems in places like her window, under her bed, in corners of the room, and lots of other places. After Emily’s death the truth would be told about her secret talent.
Emily’s sister, Lavinia Dickinson found around 900 of the poems Emily had hidden in her room. Her sister decided that the poems were good enough to be published. She went to a friend of the family where she would get help in editing and publishing the poems. Lavinia’s friend, Mabel Loomis Todd and a friend of hers, Thomas Wentworth Higginson began to put a lot of
effort of getting the poems published. In the year 1890 they accomplished in getting 115 of Emily’s poems published. After their first success of publishing the poems they began to get more involved with Emily’s poems. Along with publishing the poems Mabel and Thomas began practicing the revision of the poems. When Emily wrote the poems some of the English written was incorrect and some of the poems were incomplete. They corrected the English and finished the incomplete poems to the best of their ability. After a while they managed to publish another 166 poems.
As Johnson describes Emily Dickinson and compares her to other poets like Edgar Allen Poe and Whitman he states:
Dickinson, however, was the poet of exclusion, of the shut door. She accepted the limitations of rhyme and meter, and worked endless variations on one basic pattern, exploring the nuances that the framework would allow. No democrat, she constructed for herself a set of aristocratic images; she was queen and empress.
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nerves and on her soul. Rather than being linear and progressive, it was circular: “My business is circumference,'; she wrote, and she often described the arcs and circles of experience. As carefully as Whitman defined himself by inclusion, Dickinson defined herself and her experience by exclusion, by what she was not. Whitman was a poet of explanation; Dickinson, having rejected expansion, exploited suggestion. Although Dickinson was barely understood or appreciated in her own lifetime, she now seems a central figure-at once firmly in a tradition and at the same time, a breaker of tradition, a revolutionary who freed American poetry for modern thought and technique. (803)
Most of the poems Dickinson wrote were about love, nature, and death. One particular poem that she wrote, “ I Heard a Buzz Fly-When I died'; was about death. It mainly focused on what she thought would be her own death. In the poem the fly is know as a symbol for death. “Indeed, almost coincidentally with the moment of death, the fly moves so close to the near-corpse’s face that its body cuts off the already seemingly fading light, so close, possibly, that the ‘body’ reflexively closes its eyes at the fly’s
nearness, perhaps at its very touch'; (Monteiro 44). Monteiro also stated:
For well known to folklorists is the religious legend surrounding the death of Jesus Christ and the flies, which gathered on his body at the time of crucifixion. Looking like nails, their presence had the happy effect of preventing more nails form being driven into the body. The result is that flies may now dine at Kings’ tables with impunity. The poet’s fly appears to enjoy similar privileges before the king, perhaps even to the extent of touching the dead one’s eyes (‘anointing’ them?) at the moment of the King’s coming to harvest and (death’s) table. (44)
Monteiro’s explanation of the poem and the significance of the fly is more realistic and down to earth. He takes the past history and tries to make some sense in how a fly may have had an affect with what is known today as a profit, the sun of God, or God to the people of this world. Another reader, author, Eugene Hollahan sees the fly as something more evil. Hollahan states:
Assuming that the fly as an element in the poem takes on a new meaning when seen as an example of Miss Dickinson’s daring use of traditional Christian symbols for the purpose of
dramatically rendering the experience of death and the afterlife, I herewith suggest that this dramatic lyric is spoken by a soul very possible if not certainly burning for an eternity in Hell’s darkness. In this reading of the poem, I see the fly as an agent or emissary of Satan, the Satan Puritans would expect to be present at the death of an individual possibly of certainly damned to Hell. Knowing then that the poet often dramatized in her poetry the drama-laden situation of the personality or soul after the death of the body, and the keeping in mind the religious traditions she inherited, may conclude that this ‘deathbed’ poem, which is actually spoken by the soul some time after death, is in reality an organic development growing out of the theological background, dramatically using the idea of damnation. The poem is then seen to be an attempt to render a lyric monologue spoken by a soul presently in Hell. The stunned soul speaks monotonously, remembering the moment of death. The first, most vivid detail is the buzzing fly, the last physical thing experienced. Next, the hushed room is rendered. The ‘heaves of the storm’ suggest that this life has been stormy and the afterlife
will be too. Subsequent experience will be violent. The watchers have wept their fill, and wait with bated breath to witness the ‘king’ (will it be God or Death?). The ‘witness’ would be the hoped-for sign, but if a sign of salvation is in the possible order of things then logically a sign of damnation would be possible, even if the watchers missed it (Item 6).
In my opinion Emily Dickinson wrote exactly what she felt in her heart. She chose to keep herself confined in a room and nowhere else. She may have chosen to do this because she was in a state of depression, uncertainty of her well being, or just wanted to keep to herself for her own reasons. Although, it may not ever be certain why she never allowed herself to be exposed to the out world. For the poems that she wrote about love they could have been what she hoped she could of had happen to her. In those poems she spoke of what she thought love was, who it was, and what it meant to her. In the poems she wrote of nature, she may have written while she was looking outside of her window looking at the seasons change from Fall, to Winter, to Spring, to Summer. Last, for the poems that she wrote of death, as the authors stated I also feel that they were of her beliefs of what her death would be like.
In conclusion, Emily Dickinson is very complicated, yet truthful to the heart poet. She wrote poems while she was confined in a room that described what she thought love, nature, and death was or would be. Many people have been fascinated with her work and still are pronged into giving other inexperienced readers a persuasive aspect of how they should interpret what Emily Dickinson’s really mean.