It may sound like the title to a book like The Da Vinci Code, but it is just the title we came up with to determine what makes the work of Emily Dickinson still loved today. As it is our Emily Dickinson Month, it’s time to focus on what makes the poetry that Dickinson left us so popular.
It is not the easiest question to answer: Why Emily Dickinson? Is her work different from other poets of her time? In a way, Dickinson wrote the same as her contemporaries, but most of her work resembles works of poets that wrote poetry before she even started writing.
According to the Emily Dickinson Museum, she wrote differently than other nineteenth-century poets. Spirituality, nature and art were the main ingredients of her poems. These weren’t really uncommon topics for poets of this era. However, there is a big difference in the way the poems are composed. The meter, for instance, was different from what others did.
Why Dickinson? This question doesn’t only demand an answer based on her work. It is her lifestyle that gave her a kind of mythical status. The secluded woman who wrote. As soon as this whole story came out, people were moved by all of this and asked why she never published any of her poems. Well, she kind of did, anonymously, but that wasn’t the largest part of her literary legacy.
People were moved to see her rebellion. Not only by breaking standards when it comes to writing poetry. It was those jewels such as I’m Nobody! Who are you? (about her views on herself as a poet; willing to criticize herself) or I felt a Funeral in my Brain (about losing yourself; becoming insane), that strikes up a sparkle for many of us. It is all about standards and the willingness to ignore them.
The fact that Dickinson did not use the standards of her time, was not based on the fact that she lived in seclusion. She read work of others and was inspired by them. She was interested in (world) politics. As she kept a lively correspondence with those she considered as her friends and with her family, she wasn’t that isolated.
So, what is it about this Dickinson Formula? This is not the easiest question to answer, as it concerns poetry and everyone is moved or inspired for different reasons. That is the beauty of poetry; it fulfills different needs.