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EMILY DICKINSON: DEATH TAKES LIFE IN POETRY Emily Dickinson is regarded as “one of the greatest American poets that have ever existed.”(Benfey 5) The unique qualities of her brief, but emotional, poems were so uncommon that they made her peerless in a sense that her writing could not be compared to. Her diverse poetic character could be directly connected to her tragic and unusual life. The poems that she wrote were often about death and things of that nature, and can be related to her distressed existence. Dickinson’s forthright examination of her philosophical and religious skepticism, her unorthodox attitude toward her sex and calling, and her distinctive style— characterized by elliptical compressed expression, striking imagery and innovative poetic structure—have earned widespread acclaim, and her poems have become some of the best loved in American literature. Although only seven of Dickinson’s poems were published during her lifetime and her work drew harsh criticism when it first appeared, many of her short lyrics on the subjects of nature, love, death, and immortality are now considered among the most emotionally and intellectually profound in the English language. Biographers generally agree that, “Emily Dickinson experienced an emotional crisis of an undetermined nature in the early 1860’s.”(Cameron 26) Dickinson’s antisocial behavior became excessive following 1869. “Her refusal to leave her home or to meet visitors, her gnomic sayings, and her habit of always wearing a white dress earned her a reputation of eccentricity among her neighbors.”(Cameron 29) Her intellectual and social isolation further increased when her father died suddenly in 1874 and he was left to care for her invalid mother. The death of her mother in 1882 followed two years later by the death of Judge Otis P. Lord, a close family friend and her most satisfying romantic attachment, contributed to what Dickinson described as an ‘attack of nerves’.”(Cameron 29) Emily Dickinson’s distressed state of mind is believed to have inspired her to write more abundantly: in 1862 alone she is thought to have composed over 300 poems. “Her absorption in the world of feeling found some relief in associations with nature; yet although she loved nature and wrote many nature lyrics, her interpretations are always more or less swayed by her own state of being.”(Benfey 22) “The quality of her writing is profoundly stirring, because it betrays, not the intellectual pioneer, but the acutely observant woman, whose capacity for feeling was profound.”(Bennet 61) All seven of the poems published during her lifetime were published
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anonymously and some were done without consent. “The editors of the periodicals in which her lyrics appeared made significant alterations to them in attempt to regularize the meter and grammar, consequently discouraging Dickinson from seeking further publication.”(Fuller 17) When her poetry was first published in a complete unedited edition after her
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