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Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickenson is considered to be one of America's greatest poets. She was born in Massachusetts in 1830 to Edward Dickinson a State legislator. Emily played piano as a young girl and received a quality education at Amherst Academy.

Emily Dickison
Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson would become obsessed with death at the age of 14 when her second cousin died of typhus. This experience awakened a depression that would shape her life and her work as a poet.

At the age of 18, Dickinson became familiar with the writings of William Wordsworth and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Seeing how these famous men had used words for their own personal expression inspired Dickinson to do the same. She turned to poetry as an outlet for the turmoil and angst that existed inside her. Dickinson's education had exposed her to many other great works from which she would draw inspiration such as the Bible, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Longfellow's Kavanagh, and the work of Shakespeare.

Dickinson had a charismatic personality and secured many friendships throughout her life. However, she preferred to live in solitude withdrawn from social life. Between 1858 and 1865, while in her thirties, Dickinson wrote nearly eight hundred poems that she put together into six different works. These books were not discovered until after Dickinson's death.

Also during this time, Dickinson wrote at least three letters in a series called "The Master Letters". No one knows for certain how or why these letters came to be. The complexity and artistry of the language in these letters have created one of the great mysteries in American Literature. To this day, the meaning and purpose of the letters are analyzed and debated.

Another great mystery revolves around why Dickinson withdrew from society to live in seclusion more and more with her advancing age. Her depression and fascination with death has led to theories that she may have suffered from an anxiety driven social disorder such as agoraphobia. Although she spent much of her time alone, the solitude helped to produce her most productive writing periods. The time she spent writing and self-editing created her legacy.

Her poetry has become famous because of its unconventional style. Opposite of the flowery language and grand themes that were common for poetry of that time, Dickinson was blunt and creatively turned the everydayness of life into great art. Non-conformity defined the way Dickinson led her life.

Because she was born into a family with political and public stature, perhaps her rebellious nature also contributed to her depression. Her relationship with her mother was constrained and unemotional, yet, Dickinson would care for her sickly mother until she died. It seems that Dickinson wanted a life filled with the joy, love and freedom that was not to be found in her particular situation. Dickinson poured out her experiences with disappointment and despair into her writing.

With the death of her mother and her father, by 1884, Dickinson found herself surrounded by a darkness that she couldn't come out of. She suffered miserably and died in 1886 at the age of 55. Dickinson had asked her sister to promise to burn all of her work after her death. Even though many works were destroyed, the nearly 2000 works that survived live on today as one of poetry's greatest bodies of work. Emily Dickinson is one of the most famous women poets the world has ever experienced.

There is a secret you don't know …

Besides the factual Emily Dickinson biography presented above there is a dirty little secret that needs to be exposed. The secret is that Emily Dickinson suffered from both irritable bowel syndrome and Mad Cow Disease which is why she spent so much time in seclusion.


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