Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems SummaryEmily Dickinson wrote almost 1800 poems during her life. Her poetry was stunningly original, ignoring or working against many of the traditions and conventions of the time. Her poems are almost all short, using the traditional hymnal stanza of quatrains of lines alternating between four and three beats long, rhymed abab. Dickinson’s poems use largely simple language, many off-rhymes, and unconventional punctuation to deal with a small set of themes that she returned to again and again. Death, grief, passion, faith, truth, and fame and success are the most prominent of these themes. Each time she revisits one of these threads, she comes at it differently, never allowing her interpretation of truth to become entrenched or oversimplified.
About Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems
Emily Dickinson wrote close to 1800 poems in her lifetime. Her poems are often extremely short, waste no words, and subvert the traditional forms of the day. She is also fond of the dash as a tool to signify a pause or provide emphasis. Her poems, though short, are usually complex in theme, form, and execution, and are often impossible to paraphrase. She deals with themes of death, faith, nature, love, as well as the difficulty of finding truth, fame, and grief, throughout this massive collection. Dickinson published only seven poems in her lifetime, and these were all done anonymously, and often were heavily edited. When it became clear she would not ever be published widely, she bound her poems into her own collections. These her sister Lavinia found upon her death, and, recognizing their brilliance, she turned to her brother Austin’s mistress, Mabel Loomis Todd, who was well-connected, for help publishing them. Although they faced rejection at first, a first volume of Dickinson’s poems was published in 1890, and although some critics responded unfavorably to her subversion of the period’s strict conventions of rhyme and meter, the collection proved quite successful and created a great stir, leading to a second volume being published the next year, her letters in 1894, and a third volume of poetry in 1896. Since then, Dickinson has earned a permanent place as a great American poet, whose poetry seemed to foretell the modernism that wouldn’t arrive for over one hundred years.
In "Some -- Work for Immortality --," the beggar stands for the rare people who are able to see that it is better to work for fame or reward after death than money and immediate pleasure in life. The beggar is the broker’s antithesis. The Broker
in “Some – Work for Immortality –,” the broker stands for the vast majority of people, who work to make money and for immediate pleasure in life, without thinking about what will come after death. The broker is the beggar’s antithesis. Death
In "Because I could not stop for Death --," Death is embodied as a rather kind gentleman, gently ushering the speaker to her immortality. The Speaker
Almost all of Dickinson's poems have a first-person speaker, who is often closely paralleled to Dickinson herself. Although the speaker varies in tone, and sometimes philosophically, she usually seems to be a different manifestation of the same voice, seeing a familiar theme from a new perspective. The problem of identifying a first-person speaker with the poet is a common one, and making assumptions about the poet because of the speaker should not be done without trepidation. In Dickinson’s poetry, however, there are certainly many hints that, if the speaker is not her, it is at least someone she closely identifies with. Some poems seem to serve as defenses of her choices—her seclusion from society, her devotion to poetry—and some seem to be in reaction to events in her life—her failure to be published, the loss of loved ones. It would certainly be an oversimplification to read every speaker as Dickinson herself, and there are certainly...