Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), who was born and died in Amhert,
Mass., is known for her deceptively short and simple verses
-- deceptive in that her ideas are actually quite eloquent.
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She attended Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Semi-
nary, and began to write in the 1850s -- keeping her poems
in small, hand-bound booklets. While her early poems were
simple in form and sentiment, her later poems became more
experimental and complex. Her efforts toward concision
often meant stripping her sentences and lines to their
most basic form. Also of note, she greatly experimented
with the use of off-rhyme (near-rhyme).
Her poems were not published until after her death.
Not knowing her motives, editors "revised" her works by
adding punctuation -- mistakes that still haunt many
published editions of her poems.
XVIII. The Woodpecker
His bill an auger is,
His head, a cap and frill.
He laboreth at every tree,--
A worm his utmost goal.
1896. Poems (from "Book III")
"The Woodpecker" exemplifies some of her simpler, early work, but already her experimentation with off-rhyme can be seen
as well as a sense of whimsy found lacking in many of her
more famous and somber pieces.
Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,--
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.
Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!
"Wild Nights, ..." speaks of the security and comfort of loving
someone, comparing the heart with a ship in port. What is
interesting about this poem is that it could so easily
have made a comparison to someone waiting for a ship to
finally come home, bringing a loved one who has been off
However, DIckinson creates a slight paradox, in which
the ship is already at harbor, anchored, and yet she and her
love are "rowing" in Eden -- in bliss. The poem also uses
the conditional tense, indicating a longing for her loved
one -- who is absent.
Links of Interest:
Resource page gives brief biography of the poet, selected e-texts, and links to other sites for further study.
Links to reviews and criticism, along with more than 350 of her poems; also features biographical notes and mailing list.
University of Maryland presents 100 of Dickinson's poems online, including 'her final summer' and other classics.
Great site with pictures, in-depth biography, and literary analysis on following subjects: The Impact of the Words, Love in Dickinson's Poetry, and Nature in Dickinson's Poetry.