By Emily Dickinson
Reading Level: 5th grade
Interest Level: All ages
Teaser: Emily Dickinson was a poet who went largely unrecognized when she was alive. Little did she know that she would be considered one of the greatest American poets of all time.
Summary: The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson is the embodiment of Dickinson’s writing. From the poems, readers get a glimpse into the life of a woman who was a homebody and very private. The majority of the poems have nature themes and several contain themes of death or spirituality. She tends to write shorter poems that rhyme the second and fourth line of the stanza. Dickinson would rarely title her poems so the majority of the time the first line of her poems are also the poem titles or the poems are numbered such as in this edition.
Information about the Poet: According to the Emily Dickinson Museum, “Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst at the Homestead on December 10, 1830. Her quiet life was infused with a creative energy that produced almost 1800 poems and a profusion of vibrant letters. Her lively Childhood and Youth were filled with schooling, reading, explorations of nature, religious activities, significant friendships, and several key encounters with poetry. Her most intense Writing Years consumed the decade of her late 20s and early 30s; during that time she composed almost 1100 poems. She made few attempts to publish her work, choosing instead to share them privately with family and friends. In her Later Years Dickinson increasingly withdrew from public life. Her garden, her family (especially her brother’s family at The Evergreens) and close friends, and health concerns occupied her. With a few exceptions, her poetry remained virtually unpublished until after she died on May 15, 1886. After her death, her poems and life story were brought to the attention of the wider world through the competing efforts of family members and intimates.”
Critical Evaluation: The themes of nature, death, and spirituality are all connected in Dickinson’s work. My two favorite poems by Dickinson that can be found in this book is “I felt a funeral in my Brain” and “A Bird, came down the walk.” Dickinson’s writing is so simple and straightforward. Much like another American poet, Walt Whitman, Dickinson uses the world around her to talk about topics that are tough for people to face. Death and spirituality are both tough topics to talk about, but Dickinson does it in such a straightforward, simple way that it almost seems like her poems are matter-of-fact.
Curriculum Ties: Poetry, English, Writing
Booktalk Ideas: Read one of Dickinson’s poems and discuss how you interpreted her poem.
Challenge Issues: N/A
Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association
Why Did I Pick This: I picked this because I feel like all teenagers should be exposed to poetry, especially American poets such as Dickinson. Poetry offers a kind of release. The reader has the option of reading at the surface which is taking the the words for it’s literal meanings. However, once readers are asked to dig deeper they find that Dickinson understood the human condition in a unique way that maybe they can adopt themselves.
Dickinson, E. (2003). The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.