Emily Dickinson – Take Your Poet to Work Day!

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, MA, in 1830, the daughter of state and federal politician Edward Dickinson. A prolific poet, Dickinson was known to draft poems on the backs of envelopes and chocolate wrappers. Nearly 1800 of her poems were discovered by her family following her death, many in 40 handbound volumes she had sewn together, written in her own hand with her famously unorthodox punctuation.

The enigmatic poet is remembered as a recluse, rarely leaving the Dickinson estate. While she did receive callers at her home, conversations were often held from opposite sides of a closed door. She lived with her sister, Lavinia, while her brother Austin and his wife, Susan Gilbert, lived down a narrow path on the property. Her writing reflects profound loneliness as well as a deep capacity for love and affection, much of which is believed to have been shared with Gilbert.

Her first collection of poems, Poems by Emily Dickinson, was published four years after her death, withPoems: Second Series and Poems: Third Series following in the next several years. Like Walt Whitman (who she reportedly never read), she is considered one of the most influential poets in the emergence of a distinctly American poetic voice.

Visitors to Emily Dickinson’s grave can witness a lasting image of her perspective on life. The etching on her stone marking the date of her death bears the words “Called Back.”

Now, while you’re on the other side of that office door, perhaps you might read a couple of Dickinson’s poems to a coworker:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Wild Nights – Wild Nights! (269)

Wild nights – Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!
Futile – the winds –
To a Heart in port –
Done with the Compass –
Done with the Chart!
Rowing in Eden –
Ah – the Sea!
Might I but moor – tonight –
In thee!

 

Post and illustrations by Lyla Willingham Lindquist.

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