191 years ago today, Emily Dickinson was born. How amazed would she be to know that her words would survive and become such a legacy to the world? As a little girl, she was the first of many poets I would come to admire and treasure, poets that would inspire me and make me marvel at the mystery of it all, as well as the magic created by mere consonants and vowels put together in just the right way to reveal entire astonishing worlds.
As we celebrate her life today, I imagine that being the introvert that she was, like me, she would at times find a celebrated public life tedious.
The first poem I ever memorized was her #600:
One of the many ways I relate to Emily is in the comfort found in nature, wherein lies a soothing solace, a buzzing energy, and an all-encompassing mystery that one desires fervently to live in and write about. Emily had her gardens. I have the oceans and the multitudes of life they hold. We have both found inspiration and understanding through the act of writing.
From Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, which Emily attended at 16, she wrote to a friend at home,
Emily refused to be part of the flock. For her failure to accept the veneer of things, she was dubbed by the principal of the school to be one of the “No hopers”, the group of girls who were labeled as having no hope of salvation. I would venture to guess that quite a few of my own teachers had me on a similar list.
Maria Popova in The Marginalian writes of Emily Dickinson:
Peering through “the pinhole of surprising” or “telling it slant” is something Emily was quite adept at, as in poem #1263 she writes;
Being the skilled poet that she was, she didn’t seek “define” the truth, which opened the window of understanding and connection to readers who each approach it via different circuits and on their own terms. As an adult, I’ve come to understand that we do not all share the same truths, nor should we be expected to and as writer I hope to accomplish the same thing Emily did in her poems.
From an early age Emily broke with convention, not accepting the traditional role and conventions that women of her time were expected to adhere too. Veering off road like that can sometimes be a painful and solitary trek, something I can personally attest to. But doing so also allows for individuality and maximum growth, which I explore in my alteration of poem #600.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMILY DICKINSON
How the World Holds Together: Patti Smith Reads Emily Dickinson’s Poetic Premonition of Particle Physics – The Marginalian