We’re so familiar with Emily Dickinson today that we forget she was virtually unknown in her lifetime (1830-1886). She wrote more than 1,800 poems over her lifetime, but very few were published while she was alive. Various editions were published after her death, but it was until a definitive edition of her poems (unedited, as she wrote them) was published in 1955, notes author Kristin LeMay.
Contributing to the contemporary lack of awareness was Dickinson’s penchant for avoiding people. As she grew older, she stayed inside the family home in Amherst. Few visitors could persuade her to see them; occasionally she would talk to guests behind a door. She also wore all white, all the time.
A factor in the community’s judgment of “eccentric” was that, at an early age, she stopped attending church. And yet her poetry is filled with references to God, Jesus Christ, faith, the cross and other tenets of Christianity. This is what attracted Kristin LeMay to Dickinson, and how she used Dickinson’s poetry to answer her own doubts, questions, and uncertaintities.
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