Author Profile: Emily Dickinson

portrait photo emily dickinson

A genius poet who was never recognized in her time

There’s nothing that I can say about Emily Dickinson that hasn’t already been said. She was a prolific writer who only had a handful of poems published during her lifetime. She was a mysterious person, described by some as a recluse and eccentric, and her mystique has only grown over the years. Emily made her sister promise to burn all of her writings after she died, but, thankfully for us, while she did burn most of her letters and correspondence, she didn’t burn her poems. Somewhere around 1800 poems (partial and complete) were found after her death.

After her death, the earliest published volumes of her poetry were heavily edited. Some of the reason for this was that her style conflicted with the conventional rules of popular and accepted poetry at the time. Some of it also was likely because of tension between the Dickinson family and the editors. This quote from the Wiki page on Dickinson is a nice summary of her style and themes.

“Her poems were unique to her era. They contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends.”

Other Interesting Notes

  • The first volume of her poems (which was highly edited) was published in 1890, four years after her death.
  • The first (almost completely) unedited version of her poems was published in 1955.
  • Her most prolific and creative period was from 1861-1865, with estimates that she wrote 366 poems in 1862.
  • The most common themes and topics in her poetry are mortality, nature, and spirituality.
  • She is often classified as a Transcendentalist and is thought to have been an avid reader of Emerson.

Most Popular Poems

I did a quick Google search for “most popular Emily Dickinson poems” and the 7 poems listed below seem to be on just about every list that people put together in articles and blogs on the topic. “There’s a certain Slant of light” is possibly (probably?) my favorite. One not listed below but that I especially enjoy is “This World is not Conclusion.”

  • “Hope” is the thing with feathers
  • Because I could not stop for Death
  • There’s a certain Slant of light
  • After great pain, a formal feeling comes
  • I’m nobody! Who are you?
  • I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
  • My Life has stood – a Loaded Gun


I have tried many, many times to get into poetry. I’ve read several books to learn more about the art of poetry and to develop a greater appreciation for this artistic medium. With all that as background, I have to be honest that Dickinson is the only poet I consistently enjoy. And not just enjoy, I love her poetry. There are plenty of poems out there by other poets that I enjoy, but nothing and no one comes close to Emily Dickinson. I highly recommend reading her poems, as long as you make sure to get her unedited works. This is important because there are many books of her poetry that only contain the early, highly edited versions. This is a shame because I really enjoy her quirky, unconventional style.

You can learn more about Emily Dickinson on this Wiki page. Here’s a link to the Emily Dickinson Museum in her hometown of Amherst. Lastly, here’s a link to the Emily Dickinson Archive, where you can view high-resolution images of her surviving writings/manuscripts.