Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886)

Emily's writing desk - a gift from her father
Emily’s writing desk – a gift from her father

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

–Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson passed away 127 years ago today at the age of 56. Though many have speculated as to the true nature of her death, the poetry she left behind has been cause for much more bizarre speculation.

And to think we almost did not know who Emily was for it was her instruction given to her sister to burn all of her papers after Emily passed.  Of course, her sister saved Emily’s poems and struggled to have them published, and thank goodness she did or none of us would know Emily as we do today.

I spent my summer last year studying and reading her because she is the lead character in what will be my fourth novel, Dickinstein, being published this fall with Rocking Horse Publishing. I’ve always had a fascination with her ever since college.  A student professor liked to say, “We all must bow to Miss Emily,” during random tangents in his lectures.  Though I had no idea who or what he was talking about, I eventually found out for myself and now I know why he said that.

Emily hated criticism.  I am almost certain that’s why she wanted her poems to be destroyed.  It took years for them to even be published due to turmoil caused by her brother’s affair. In my book, I explore a central fictional episode in Emily’s life that could have inspired her poetry.

The themes of life and death resonate in her words, so I stayed true to her and used that as my underlying theme through the book. Emily might have even feared death, but she also respected it.  She had a fondness for nature and living things.  I tried my best to capture that as well and while the book is completely fictional, it is a celebration of her true self.

I myself have worn a poet’s hat, and as a writer I think I connect with Emily so much because I often share in her turmoil and sadness. I have been surrounded by acquaintances and yet still felt so alone in this world. And at times, only words can give me comfort.

Flowers have been my only friends, and a garden path my daily direction; the song of a bird my sad melody. Once death stops for me, I cannot imagine I will have such an impact upon the world as Emily has, but if Emily were alive today I would have to thank her. Her words have given me that comfort, and in the end, that’s all a writer ever wants.  Even if it is a comfort for one’s self, it is comfort nonetheless.

Rest in peace, Miss Dickinson.

For Emily

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