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EMILY DICKINSON

AN INNOVATOR OF POETIC LANGUAGE AND LITERARY DEVICES

Birth and family

Emily Dickinson is considered to be one of the most important poets of the 19th
century because of her intense work and the originality of her adopted style of
writing.

She was born on the 10th of December 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, from father
Edward Dickinson who was an important and prestigious lawyer at those times and
the treasurer of Amherst College and from mother Emily Norcross Dickinson. She
also had two siblings: a brother, Austin Dickinson who helped in the family lawyer
service and then followed his father in being the treasurer of Amherst College and a
sister, Lavinia Dickinson which, as Emily, was never married and she engaged in the
family’s women duties.

Education

Her parents, especially her father, were strict about education so Emily got a proper
one, first attending Primary School, then Amherst Academy for seven years from
1840 to 1847 and then enrolling in Mount Holyoke Female Seminar for one year.

Life

After finishing school, Emily Dickinson resumed her domestic and familial obligations
and began to wear only white clothing that could symbolize a nun, a virgin or a poet
or the combination of all three.

She suffered an emotional crisis after Samuel Bowles’s ( a friend of her father and
the publisher and editor of “The Republican Springfield”) public rejection and
discouraging against her writing and she started receiving less and less visitors until
she totally isolated herself. This is when her seclusion began with an epiphany that
she should dedicate her entire life to her work. She spent the rest of her life alone
and writing poems, the only contact that she had with other people being through
letters, and on the 15th of May 1886, at the age of 55th, she died of a kidney disease.

Although Emily had a poor, unplentiful social life, she managed to develop a rich,
passionate life through her work.

”If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I
know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know
that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way? ”- Emily
Dickinson
Work

Emily Dickinson was concerned with the essence of living, the themes that she
approached in her poems were powerful and profound themes like inner world,
death, pain, love, religion and nature.

During her lifetime, only eight poems were published, but after her death nearly two
thousand poems were discovered.

Inner world

Emily was concerned about the drama of individual consciousness which she
presented through an explanation of inner world of which she saw the potential
danger and loneliness. Adrienne Rich said that : "Dickinson is the American poet
whose work consisted in exploring states of psychic extremity."

Death

She considered death the ultimate experience which reveals the ultimate truth or
reality and clears the true nature of God and state of the soul. Death is personified,
ranging from a suitor to a tyrant and ambivalent because it is seen as a terror to be
feared and avoided, a trick played on humanity by God, a welcome relief or a
blessed way to Heaven.

Pain

Pain has a necessary role because it earns us purer moments of ecstasy and makes
joy more vital. The pain of loss enhances our appreciation of victory and the pain of
separation indicates the degree of our desire of union.

Love

Her poems go from renunciation, to professions of love and to sexual passion, her
probably male muse being Reverend Charles Wadsworth with whom she was in love
and encountered about three times in 25 years, but recalling him in her most love-
erotic work.

Religion

Tough she came close to being converted once, Emily Dickinson never felt God’s
call, a lack which caused her considerable disquiet and pain and treating this theme
with scepticism. She treats the Divinity friendly than goes to anger, bitterness and
even cruelty, again being ambivalent. She considered God, Heaven, Hell, sin,
redemption and immortality things to be experienced. We can say that she was
rather a spiritual person than a religious one.
Nature

The nature was seen as the source of joy and beauty but can become threatening
and dangerous and it is characterized as indifferent to humanity.

Style

Many poems represent the poet’s opinion of gender issues. She purified her work by
eliminating inessential language and punctuation from her poems and she manages
to gain attention by compressing language and disregarding grammar rules and
sentence structure. Using these methods, her poems became almost
incomprehensible, like a riddle or intellectual puzzle for the readers and her
seclusion contributed to the creation of her own style.

She uses imagery techniques to add a more profound understanding to her verses,
to emphasize what she feels, metaphors being the most commonly used literary
device. The poet loved words for the simple fact of being words and for the capacity
of creating a full image, recalling a memory or wakening different sensations and
feelings by simply using them.

Elements

Emily Dickinson uses frequently in her poems the dash to emphasize a missing word
or to replace a comma or a period; she changes the functions of the words, often,
adjectives and verbs are used as nouns and capitalizes for no apparent reason other
than that the words are nouns.

The rhyme is infrequent, the poet choosing to use types of rhyme that were not
accepted until late 19th century and are used by modern poets. This types are the
identical rhyme (sane, insane), eye rhyme (though, through), vowel rhyme (see,
buy), imperfect rhyme (time, thin) and suspended rhyme (thing, along).

She is coining new words, resurrect old ones and she is using simple terms in
unfamiliar contexts, this way managing to transmit better and clearer to the reader
her feelings, also creating images with an explicative role.

Conclusions

Emily Dickinson opened a new frontier of feminine power and assertiveness through
her transcendent and imaginative verse and she also invented the free form of
English’s most common poem-the hymn.

She also started a new era in the poetic language and she was the first to use
unmatched rhyme at those times.

She was considered to be a miniaturist because her poems have less than thirty
lines although she treats the deepest themes.