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Emily Dickenson: The Poetess In White

She is considered as one of the most eminent poets of America. Her poems were hardly published while she was alive and when they were they were edited. She made her sister Lavinia promise that she would burn all her papers before her death. Thankfully for all of us Lavinia did not and Emily’s beautiful poems resonate even today. This very private poet who in her later years never went out of her room was Emily Elizabeth Dickenson.

Emily Dickenson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts was an exceedingly bright but well-behaved child. She had a few years of schooling but did most of her studying at home. She was home- bound, having to take care of her sick mother. Emily was an excellent baker and gardener. Emily rarely left her home and garden and lived under the protective cover of her brother Austin, his wife Sue and her younger sister Lavinia.

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Emily’s sister Lavinia speaks to us about her dead sister

Emily saw much death even as a young girl of her cousin due to typhus. She lost her mentor Benjamin Franklin Newton to tuberculosis. She nursed her mother through deteriorating health. Emily read voraciously and wrote even more so. Her world was one of her close family and characters in books. She loved Jane Eyre so that she named her dog Carlo after one in the book. She loved nature and quietness.

Her serene living was only on the exterior. Within Emily burned the creative spirit so deep which she religiously poured into her poems. To the friends she made and stayed in touch with, she did with her letters and not meetings. She was loath to go and meet people, preferring always to meet them at her Armherst cottage. In death, she requested that she carried among the buttercups she so loved and not be ridden in a carriage to the cemetery. She died in her trademark white dress, one of the many she wore through her life.

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Lavinia tells us about her sister’s monochrome wardrobe choice

Jeanette Winter’s ‘Emily Dickenson’s Letters To The World‘ is a wonderfully conceptualised introductory book about Emily Dickenson. Written and illustrated by Jeanette the book opens with Emily’s death and her sister Lavinia lamenting it. Lavinia uncovers Emily’s poems while going through her room and comes to realise what her sister did by sitting for hours writing at her desk.

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Lavinia uncovers the treasure Emily Dickenson had been creating over her lifetime

The book proceeds to showcase some of Emily Dickenson’s best work and calls them her ‘Letters To The World‘.

Emily Dickenson’s love and wonder of the smallest thing can be seen in her these wonderful lines about a spider web.

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Her distaste of fame and self-praise are immortalised in her poems. Emily would have found this age of selfies, constant updation of life events quite jarring.

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Emily compares self- propaganda to a frog’s croaking in June!

Emily adored Shakespeare who she felt was complete in every regard. Her poem about the moon does bring the Bard strongly to mind.

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Dimities is a cotton fabric with stripes or checks of heavier yarn

 

Nothing escaped her poetic scrutiny as this poem about a paper boat tells us.

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Emily’s deeply reflective nature had to be reflected in her poems.

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Emily was often alone and never lonely

 

Emily Dickenson was called ‘a myth’ by the curious townsfolk who did not understand this reclusive poetess. Her family always remembered Emily as someone who sought only to do good, be helpful and do her duties. She grew as a woman as the child she was, never seeking but always giving. In one of her Letters To The World she expresses her life’s philosophy.

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Emily ‘s poem is the forerunner to another great American poetess Maya Angelou who said, “Try to be the rainbow in someones cloud.”

Jeanette Winter’s Emily Dickenson’s Letters to The World is a keepsake that honours on the world’s literary greats.

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