She Was One Of America’s Most Influential Poets, And Although Only 10 Of Her Poems Were Published When She Was Alive, Her Family Discovered That She Had Written More Than 1,800 Poems

Amherst College Archives & Special Collection - pictured above is Emily

If you didn’t know, we just finished National Poetry Month in April! Did you get a chance to read any poetry? If not, now’s a good time to learn about one of America’s most influential poets, Emily Dickinson. 

Emily was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830. She attended primary school as a young girl and eventually went to Amherst Academy. She was a bright student who loved her studies.

Emily had to grapple with the complexities of death at a young age, which heavily influenced her poetry later on. She was especially traumatized by the death of her second cousin, whom she was very close to, Sophia, from typhus in 1844.

She was grieving so heavily that her parents sent her to live with relatives in Boston to help her heal briefly.

When she returned home, she re-enrolled at Amherst Academy. After graduation, she briefly attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary but eventually returned home due to homesickness and the institution’s strict rules.

As she got older, Emily became more different from her other family members. She had to take on a lot of domestic duties around her family’s home when she was in her 20s after her mother fell ill. However, she hated it and often wrote about not wanting to maintain a household.

Emily started writing at a young age but dove deep into poetry during her late teens. She wrote a lot in the 1850s and did some traveling around 1855. She went to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia to visit family before entering a long period of solitude at home in Amherst.

Emily became extremely reclusive and spent much of her time writing. She wrote bundles of verses and also studied botany on the side. Much of her work was centered around themes of nature, identity, mortality, and death.

Emily’s brother, William, married one of her closest friends and companions, Susan Gilbert, in 1856 and moved next door to their family home in Amherst. Emily and her sister Lavinia were their mother’s primary caregivers until she died in 1882.

Amherst College Archives & Special Collection – pictured above is Emily

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