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July 16, 2013

Essay on Emily Dickinson

Poetry of Emily Dickinson
Dickinson was a prolific American poet who is known for her unique use of language with unconventional capitalization and punctuation. She used unique language to an extent that the publishers had to alter much of her poetry to conform to the conventional poetic rules of the time. In her poems, she extensively used short lines and often slant rhyme. The recurring themes of her poetry are death and immortality.
The locals considered her to be an eccentric character as she had an inclination for white clothing and indifference to entertain her guests. It was not until after her death in 1886 when Lavinia, Emily's younger sister, found out her collection of poems which was later published after four years. She, a well-behaved and sophisticated lady, always wanted to establish harmonious relationships with other and to avoid confronting personal emotions of disagreeable and intense nature. She lived a very reserved family life. Though she never married but she had relationships with several out-of-family friends, mentors and confidants. She was an introvert who chose to live in her life of imagination and creativity. For her, the value of expectation was far greater than actual reality.
Her extensive use of dashes and unconventional capitalization in manuscripts, and the idiosyncratic vocabulary and imagery, serve to produce a body of work that is "far more various in its styles and forms than is commonly supposed."(McNeil, 27) Instead of using pentameter, she opted for trimeter and sometimes dimeter. These meters are mostly irregular with the seldom of irregular ones. The form that she used more often was ballad stanza---a conventional form divided into quatrains using tetrameter for the first and third lines with trimeter for the second and fourth line rhyming as ABCB.
In some poems, she breaks away with the use of traditional ballad stanza preferring to use trimeter for lines one, two, and four with the use of tetrameter only for line three. Some of her poems such as O Little Town of Bethlehem and Amazing Grace befittingly use the rhyme schemes fit for the melodies of popular folk songs and hymns.   
Dickinson scholar and poet Anthony Hecht traces resonances in Dickinson's poetry not only with hymns and song-forms but also with psalms and riddles, citing the following example: "Who is the East? / The Yellow Man / Who may be Purple if he can / That carries the Sun. / Who is the West? / The Purple Man / Who may be Yellow if He can / That lets Him out again.” (Pollak, 62)
In the poem entitled “I Dwell in Possibility” the poet actually provides the reader a comparison based on her present life which has been denoted as prose in the poetry with her dream life or a life that she desires to live. Emily provides an indication of her dreaming state of mind by saying ‘More numerous of Windows’ as there is always greater number of windows in a state of dream as the presence of greater windows and doors convey a feeling that are numerous frontiers to which one can look forward to in order to turn over a new leaf in life any time any day..
However in reality it is exactly the opposite where there are only a specific amount and limit of opportunities that are present and availing them at the right time can only lead to proper survival.
With the help of the words ‘cedars’ and ‘impregnable’ Emily tries to yet again convey a number of different perceptions that are representative of human nature. First the use of word cedar which in the Bible means luxury, Emily tries to portray her feeling of her rooms being quite lavish and opulently designed with the use of cedar wood which was considered as one of the most expensive forms of wood at one point of time.
Moreover with ‘impregnated’ she not only conveys her feeling but also shed slight upon the insatiable thirst of man needs and wants by saying that no matter how lavish or luxurious is your lifestyle, one always desires and strives for a better one and from the stage of better he makes effort to achieve the best. 
The rhyme scheme that Dickinson employs in the poem,“I am nobody! Who are you?” is a a x a x b x b. This poem also contains situational irony as people who are being referred to in the poem are those who want to be ‘somebody” unlike the poet who is already nobody. She also uses pun in the eight line with the mention of ‘Bog’ is where frog live. It indicates that nobody is listening to the poet.
In “Faith is a Fine Invention," the rhyme scheme is x a x a with the iambic meter also employed. She uses the symbol of microscope as the symbol of science and practicality. “A Bird Came Down the Walk” uses similar rhyme scheme. However, the poet in this poem employs iambic trimeter except for the third line in each stanza.
The use of unusual capitalization and dashes marks sudden change in the poem. As in this poem, the poem suddenly shifts its focus from talking about the bird to relating the same to human encroachment.  The poet also uses metaphors to probe deeper into the themes of death and immorality.

McNeil, Helen. 1986. Emily Dickinson. London: Virago Press.
Pollak, Vivian R. 1996. "Thirst and Starvation in Emily Dickinson's Poetry" in Farr (1996) 62–75)


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