Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) was a prolific and private American poet. In her youth, Dickinson studied at the Amherst Academy for seven years and then spent a short time at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family’s home in Amherst, MA. Dickinson lived largely a reclusive life, writing nearly 1,800 poems, fewer than a dozen of which were published during her lifetime.
Dickinson’s poems are unique for the period in which she lived: they contain short lines, they generally lack titles, and they frequently use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of Dickinson’s poems deal with themes of death and immortality, which were two recurring topics in her letters to friends.
In one of her poems, Dickinson wrote of the limitlessness of the “brain”, which today most would call the mind (as distinct from the physical organ that is the brain):
“The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—”
Dickinson described the mystical moments of her soul in the following poem:
“The Soul’s Superior instants
Occur to Her—alone—
When friend—and Earth’s occasion
Have infinite withdrawn—
To too remote a Height
For lower Recognition
Than Her Omnipotent—
This Mortal Abolition
Is seldom—but as fair
To Autocratic Air—
To favorites—a few—
Of the Colossal substance
Quoted by Stephen Mitchell in The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry.
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