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On December 10, 1830, Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although she would write nearly 1,800 poems over the course of her life, very little of her poetry was published during her lifetime and even those that were published were edited to be more “conventional.” Dickinson’s poetry did not become well-known until after her death.
An infamous recluse, Dickinson remained in contact with her friends primarily through letters. She wrote poetry throughout her life, which she kept in tied-up “bundles.” Her sister discovered these bundles after Dickinson’s death and had them published in an altered form. Dickinson’s work would not be published in anything resembling its original form until later.
Dickinson’s distinctive poetic style is notable for its use of short lines, non-standard grammar, and unconventional rhyme schemes. In particular, her poetry utilizes slant rhyme, which happens when the poet chooses words that nearly rhyme but don’t quite. In other words: she was a rule breaker!
Dickinson’s poems represent an opportunity for young readers to see a respected poet playing with language freely. So, boil some tea and enjoy the word play!
A note to parents: Emily Dickinson’s poetry at times deals with some heavy themes, most often surrounding death. We recommend reading the poems yourself before deciding if they are right for your family.
Emily Dickinson – In this BrainPOP YouTube video (8 min.), “Tim and Moby examine the life of the celebrated poet and explore one of her groundbreaking poems. ‘A Bird came down the Walk’ [which] illustrates Dickinson’s lyric style, her vivid imagery and figurative language, and her innovative use of slant rhyme.”
Emily – If your kids are too young for her poetry, this beautifully illustrated picture book follows a little girl who lives across the street from Emily Dickinson.