Sunday, December 12, 2010

Speaking of Poets--Happy BDay Emily!

Yesterday, (no, two days ago already) it was Emily Dickinson’s birthday. I am only just finding out because Billy Collins was on Prairie Home Companion this weekend in honor of her, and I listen to the rebroadcast of PHC on Sunday afternoons while lying on the floor. You can hear an older quite excellent interview with Billy Collins on why he loves Emily here.

Emily did not care about fame and success. She wrote 1800 poems and less than a dozen were published in her lifetime! As a child she hid at the top of the stairs when visitors came and listened. Her adult life was spent alone as a recluse working in her garden and writing poetry like a madwoman. Later she spent most of her time in bed (I am so in awe of her!)

Here’s a line from her poem, Compensation:

For each ecstatic instant

We must an anguish pay

In keen and quivering ratio

To the ecstasy.

So even though it’s two days belated, it’s never too late to read your favorite Emily poems. Or, for a little excitement, try Billy Collins reading his poem "Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes."


  1. Thanks for this post, Lisa. I've always enjoyed the simple beauty of ED. Such a contrast to the work of most of her contemporaries. Her verses have a heartfelt frankness in language that is at once both simple and eloquent. Whether describing "a certain slant of light" or portraying Death as a carriage driver, she creates images that resonate even with 21st century readers.

  2. Also, check out the lovely picture book, "Emily," by Michael Bedard, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, about a little girl who lives next door to the reclusive poet. Very sweet.

  3. "Emily did not care about fame or success." She was not interrupting her writing to check her sales' status on Amazon. She lived in her house and kept writing. What a wonder. Thanks for the words of inspiration.