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Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 - May 15, 1886), nineteenth century United States poet was born in Amherst, Massachusetts to a prominent family known for support of the local educational institutions. Emily's grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, was one of the founders of Amherst College, and her father served as lawyer and treasurer for the institution. Emily's father also served in powerful positions on the General Court of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts State Senate, and the United States House of Representatives.

During a religious revival that swept Western Massachusetts during the decades of 1840-50, Dickinson found her vocation as a poet. One of her biographers has suggested that Dickinson thought of becoming a poet in the Biblical terms of Jacob wrestling with the angel.

Dickinson lived most of her life in the house in which she was born, made a few trips to visit relatives in Boston, Cambridge, and Connecticut. Most of her work is not only reflective of the small moments of what happens around her, but also of the larger battles and themes of what was happening in the larger society. For example, over half of her poems were written during the years of the American Civil War. In the words of one of her most memorable lines, Dickinson's poems tell all the truth but tell it slant:

Tell all the Truth but tell it slantó
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or everyman be blindó

By the time of her death, no more than seven Dickinson poems had been published, but her legacy of 1776 poems eventually brought the full extent of her work to the world. Today, Dickinson is not only considered one of the most accessible poets of all time but one of the most representative. Features of her work that were considered oddities have become signature aspects of her style and form. Dramatic asides, odd capitalization, telegraphic dash punctuation, hymnbook rhythms, off-rhymes, multiple voices, and elaborate metaphors have become recognizable to readers across time and translations of her work.

She died, as she was born, in Amherst, Massachusetts.

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