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On 10th December 1830, Emily Dickinson was born Emily Elizabeth Dickinson in Massachusetts. To be precise, she was born in Amherst, a town in Massachusetts. Before she died, she was a poet by profession. During her teenage years, she was in close contact with a man named Newton. The poet rendered him a mentor thus speculations about their intimate relationship may have been mere rumors. Newton introduced Dickinson into various writing works and poems (Howe, Susan & Eliot 7). In fact, he gave her Ralph Waldo Emerson’s collection of poems as a gift. Before Newton’s death, he encouraged Dickinson to continue with her greatness because he loved her poetry (Howe et al. 8-9).
Dickinson was well versed in the Bible, which in fact, is a form of literature. She was also interested in other various types of literature. The poet also read many letters addressed by different authors. In addition to the collection of poems, Newton also awarded her with the gift of “Letters from New York” by Lydia Maria Child. Dickinson also read other works such as William Shakespeare and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among other authors (Kirk 3-7).
The poet appears in the frontline of the American culture as a poetic hero. According to her poems, she depicts that America has greatly improved the world of literature. Also, she was inspired by authors and writers emanating from America. Dickinson is also noted and recognized as one of the greatest American poets (Kirk 3-5). Clearly, Dickinson is present in American literature classes today. The paper will thoroughly examine Dickinson’s contribution to American literature, her influences, literary criticism, as well as her achievements before she died.
Dickinson’s overall contribution to American culture
As prior mentioned, Dickinson is acknowledged as a great American poet. Fore mostly, it is important to recognize her significance in American literature classes today. Dickinson’s works play a significant role in giving insight into American literature to students. As a matter of fact, her poems have been greatly employed as songs by prominent music composers such as John Adams, Nick Peros, and Aaron Copland, among others. There are also journals that have been published using Dickinson’s name. It is necessary to understand that these journals are employed in the examination and critique of her literary works (Bloom 21).
It is chief to observe the similar characteristics in Dickinson’s poems. Also, the poems are unique as they are divided into three periods of time. Before 1861, most of her poems revolved around standards and sentiments. One of her sentimental poems was addressed to her friend. Dickinson’s message in the poem depicted the rough patch that was present in their friendship (Pollak 13). Between 1861 and 1865, Dickinson published emotional poems in conjunction with those depicting themes of paradise and purgatory. It is clear to note that all her poems were written before 1866 (Bloom 39).
Additionally, there are specific details that set apart Dickinson’s poems. Some of the concepts seen in her poems involve formidable vocabulary. Also, she integrated a lot of imagery, jokes, irony and puns in her writing. Dickinson employs ballad structures in most of her poems. In fact, the poems’ melodies are similar to those of popular songs. It is necessary to learn that most of these songs are gospel in nature. For instance; Amazing Grace, which is often sung in churches or during religious functions (Bloom 55). Additionally, her works employ the riddle format, which is not a common feature in most poems. The poet is also immensely vigilant with punctuation. To be precise, she pays close attention to capital letters, dashes, and commas, among others (Bloom 39).
Besides the prior mentioned themes, there are other themes present in Dickinson’s works. It is clear to realize that she does not focus on one genre. Her poems are diverse thus they garner content from various genres. First, it is chief to observe the portrayal of flowers in Dickinson’s poems. She uses flowers to delineate different issues such as emotions, humility, and cautiousness, among others. The poet also uses gardens together with flowers in her poetry. As earlier mentioned, Dickinson often sent the poems to her allies. Additionally, her poems also focus on death and mortality (Kirk 13). The theme of death is portrayed in different forms within her poems. She examines murder, death by guillotines, crucifixion and hanging, among others. It is necessary to note that Dickinson also discusses cases of suicide. This theme is often analyzed to delineate that the individuals fail to see the purpose of their lives (Bloom 39-43).
As earlier discussed, Dickinson was familiar with the Bible. It is, therefore, safe to assume that she is a religious woman. She also wrote poems that incorporated tenets of Christianity. The poet uses informal American language to write those works with themes of Christianity. Moreover, she also has poems with some form of Christian connotation. These poems were often addressed to a “Sir”. It is speculated that the “Sir” could have been an important figure to Dickinson. As a matter of fact, the figure could have been a religious or Christian figure (Pollak 15).
The poet also has employed anonymity and mystery in her poems. Most times, she would write about imaginative places. They were often dark and exhibited ultimate confidentiality and privacy in the description. Also, she focused on writing about individuals’ minds and spirits. It is salient to note that the poet had an introverted personality thus she knew much about the internal being (Kirk 13).
Dickinson also had numerous connections with other authors and poets. As mentioned, she was keen about Shakespeare and Longfellow. Their works greatly inspired her to publish more works and become a better poet. It is salient that the works of these individuals greatly improved and shaped Dickinson’s works. In fact, her connections began with William Wordsworth and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It is also primary to note that Dickinson’s fear of death may have greatly influenced her works. When she was young, she lost people that were close to her (Kirk 13). For this reason, she was terribly scared of death. She wrote a piece insinuating that she also wanted to die and join her friend as well as her cousin. In fact, it is this fear that influenced her religious beliefs thus shaping her works (Bloom 21).
Furthermore, it is clear that Dickinson’s prominence resulted in the inevitable criticism of her literary works. Many scholars have critical analyzed Dickinson’s poems. Some of them such as Raja Sharma have published scholarly material regarding the same. The author’s journal is entitled “Poetry Guide” and it incorporates the summaries and critical analysis of Dickinson’s poems. As earlier mentioned, there is literary criticism, and it is on the poem entitled, “The Brain is wider than the Sky.”
The outer meaning of the poem focuses on the brain and the ways that it works. Dickinson describes that one’s brain often has power over all the other body parts. The poet makes a clear relation between the brain and the sea, the sky and God. Dickinson outlines that the brain is greater than the sea and sky. She uses certain examples to ascertain the superiority of the brain to the two elements. Additionally, the poet gives insight that the only difference between God and the brain is the words and their sounds.
According to Sharma, the poet asserts that the brain has the capacity of occupying the sky as well as realizing this occupation. In this scenario, the brain is seen to portray formidable skills thus it is greater than the sky. Also, the poet attempts to give a description of the brain using the sea. She outlines that the brain is capable of absorbing the sea in the same way that a sponge may absorb water in a bucket. Dickinson outlines that irrespective of its size, the brain is capable of storing a lot of information. Her point describes that size is irrelevant in determining abilities.
Sharma delineates that the comparison between God and the brain does not have a definite critique format. In fact, she reasons out that the comparison may mean different things. According to the author, other individuals may shun the message on grounds of disrespect and blasphemy. However, it is clear to note that the poet could also be referring to the fact that the brain is God’s work thus it cannot be more powerful than Him (Dickinson 15).
The language that Dickinson employs in “The Brain is wider than the Sky” is not sophisticated but, simple and straight to the point. As earlier mentioned, a prevalent theme in Dickinson’s poems is that of the soul and mind. In this poem, she clearly describes the relationship between one’s mind and the universe. Dickinson asserts that the relationship appears to be a quagmire thus difficult to decipher.
Before she died, Dickinson wrote many poems. However, only a few of her existing poems were first published. It was until later that other numerous Dickinson’s poems were found by her younger sister. The poems were too many thus they were compiled and combined into a collection. Unfortunately, some publishers wrongly used Dickinson’s poems after editing and creating a whole different picture of them. As a matter of fact, some of Dickinson’s works may have been released to the public without her knowledge (Bloom 99). Most of the edited poems still resembled the original poems thus it was wrong to take Dickinson’s copyrights forcefully.
Also, these poems were published in some magazines and newspapers for different purposes. In fact, some of them were published for fundraising. These funds were useful in settling the medical bills of those that were injured in the American Civil War. Regardless of the anonymity, the money was used to impact the citizens of America positively. It is important to realize that one of Dickinson’s poems was anonymously published with her knowledge. Due to influence, she succumbed and agreed with the anonymity proposal. This poem was the last one to be published in Dickinson’s time. Nonetheless, most of her poems were also published after her demise.
In the United States; Montana and Washington to be precise, there are schools that were started under Dickinson’s name. This gesture clearly shows the influence that Dickinson had on the American culture. The U.S. Postal Services also designed stamps in Dickinson’s honor. In point of fact, she is the second American Poet to receive recognition from the U.S. Postal Services (Bloom 25).
Moreover, Dickinson left a great legacy at Harvard University. Before she died, she arranged and organized plant specimens in an album. It is about sixty-six pages and was published by the Harvard University Press. The album is currently present at the University’s Houghton Library. Emily Dickinson was a prominent figure that also left a legacy in her hometown. Jones Library in Amherst holds many of her publications. Apart from poems, Dickinson also wrote letters that are present in the library. It also consists of other material such as articles, art pieces, plays newspapers and photographs, among others (Bloom 69-70). Surprisingly, other than images, pieces of Dickinson’s hair are also in the library. The highlight of Dickinson’s legacy was observed after the building of a museum in the poet’s name.
Emily Dickinson was and is still one of the greatest poets in America. Her contribution to American literature indirectly improves the lives of other individuals. She has not only motivated poets but, also artists and feminists. As a matter of fact, most of them have used Dickinson to shape their works. For instance; composers and rock bands borrowed songs from her poems, while artists borrowed setting, among others (Bloom 135). The prominent American poet died on May 15th, 1886.
Dickinson did not let death stop her from writing. Before her death, she continued to write poems. However, she did not follow the concepts and organization in her earlier works. She was also not for the idea of posthumous publication. Consequently, Dickinson requested her sister to get rid of her poems. Two years before her death, she wrote a piece related to the same. Even on her death bed, Dickinson continued to write out letters to her family members. It is important to realize that Dickinson died at a tender age. For this reason, there’s insight about her demise. She did not die of old age rather; she suffered a chronic type of kidney disease. During her funeral service, they read one of her poems entitled, “No coward soul is mine.”
This paper has critically analyzed Emily Dickinson and her contributions to the American culture. Clearly, she also positively impacts the American culture in other areas apart from literature. Through her literature, the American people raise money to settle medical bills. Irrespective of the anonymity, Dickinson receives the praise and honor. The paper has also explored the various contributions apropos of Dickinson’s existence in America. As seen; schools, museums and stamps are under her name. Emily Dickinson is also one of the poets that are studied in American literature classes. Her works and achievements are worth analysis and critique. They also assist students in learning more about the world as portrayed by the themes in her poems. Through the paper, there is also great insight concerning her influence on other poets, writers, and artists. Finally, it examines Dickinson’s death and the legacy she leaves behind.
Bloom, Harold. Emily Dickinson. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2008. Print.
Dickinson, Emily. Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Paw Prints, 2008. Print.
Kirk, Connie A. Emily Dickinson: A Biography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004. Print.
Howe, Susan, and Eliot Weinberger. My Emily Dickinson. New York: New Directions, 2007. Print.
Pollak, Vivian R. A Historical Guide to Emily Dickinson. Oxford [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004. Print.
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