Emily Dickenson is one of the most prominent American poets, also acknowledged as one of the founders of the American poetry by some people. She was born in 1830 at Massachusetts and died in 1886, yet she remains a fascinating and intriguing pre-modernist poet after such a long time.

As a poet, she seems to have existed in a vacuum, like some kind of mystery. She used many themes in her poems and after reading a bit about her, one can infer that these themes are closely connected with her personal and social life.

She was obsessed with the idea of death and the life thereafter. She seems to have thought of this constantly. One of the reasons behind this is her unaccomplished love. After this, she led a life devoid of outward events. She lived in retirement, known to but a few intimate friends. Belonging to a Calvinist family also forced her to follow strict moral attitude. Moreover, there was a graveyard near her house where she observed funerals very closely and regularly. This made death something normal and easy-going for her. All these factors seem to have influenced her poetry a lot. Death for her is not something very sad or grave, she perceives in a variety of interesting ways. In one of her poems, she says that the death is a ‘lover’ who, very gently and affectionately, comes and takes her bride away in a carriage. In another poem she treats death as a buzzing sound of a fly.

Beauty and nature are also basic components of her poems. She perceives beauty in a harmonious relationship with nature. In her view, spiritual beauty is long-lasting and immortal unlike the worldly and superficial one which decays with the passage of time. In one of her poems she regards truth and beauty as alike, truth being a product of nature. She says that “the two are one” in the sense that both are immortal. That also makes her a kinsman to John Keats who, in her “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, expresses the same ideas as “Truth is beauty, beauty truth”.

T. W. Higginson, writer and editor of Atlantic Monthly, to whom Emily used to write letters and send her poems for corrections, says that there is a vanity in her letters. She believed that anything she says, however, brief, will be of importance. This attitude, it is thought, she borrowed from Emerson. Emersonian Individualism is clear enough in her poetry. It was a “doctrine of the supremacy of individual to himself”, of his originality. Followers of this belief regard their own character unique. We can, thus, see why she lived like a hermit, may be consciously.

One more aspect of her poetry is her sensuousness. She implies all the senses in her poems to clarify her points of view. We can say that her senses are acute. For example for death and things related to death, she has used images like “tomb”, “setting sun”, “swelling of the ground”, “last onset” and “eternity”. Most of the wording in her poems is passive.

A lot of her poems are portrayal of her philosophy of life and her personal life. She implies her personal experiences and feelings in her poetry blended with courageous and rebellious ideas, and that’s what makes her an intriguing and eccentric poet.

by Atique (183/10)



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