Emily Dickinson- National Poetry Month Profile

Written by Amber Baldwin

“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”-Emily Dickinson.

It’s National Poetry Month. Let’s talk about Emily Dickinson.
Emily Dickinson is recognized as one of the leading American poets of the 19th century.

She was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts.

As a child, Emily Dickinson was praised by students and teachers for her writing skills. She also did well in Latin and science. After attending Amherst Academy, Dickinson went on to study at the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Blake, and Thomas Carlyle influenced her writings.

Dickinson had an older brother named Austin and a younger sister named Lavinia. Emily and Lavinia never married. Austin married a woman named Susan Huntington Gilbert.

However, after her death on May 15, 1886, her sister Lavinia found all her poems. She had written almost 1,800 poems! Emily Dickinson’s friends and family were aware of her writings but were very surprised to find that many. While alive, only ten poems were published, so finding so many was amazing.

The found poems were then published. The first three volumes of poetry were edited and published by Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd in 1890, 1891, and 1896.

In 1998, The New York Times took a closer look at her poems. They found that many of the edits done by Higginson and Todd had included taking the name Susan out of Dickinson’s works.

Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, the Susan in the poems, was Emily Dickinson’s sister-in-law. The two met when they were 20 and hid their affair their entire lives. But while they had their affair, Austin Dickinson also had an affair with Mabel Loomis Todd, one of the major first editors of Emily’s poems after her death.

Many books, movies, and websites are available for research to find out more about Emily Dickinson. There is even a museum, https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/, that has the biographies of her family members as well as some of her poetry.

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