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The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
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The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.7 362
by Emily Dickinson, Rachel Wetzsteon (Introduction)

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The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, by Emily Dickinson, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes &


The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, by Emily Dickinson, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Born in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1830, Dickinson began life as an energetic, outgoing young woman who excelled as a student. However, in her mid-twenties she began to grow reclusive, and eventually she rarely descended from her room in her father’s house. She spent most of her time working on her poetry, largely without encouragement or real interest from her family and peers, and died at age fifty-five. Only a handful of her 1,775 poems had been published during her lifetime. When her poems finally appeared after her death, readers immediately recognized an artist whose immense depth and stylistic complexities would one day make her the most widely recognized female poet to write in the English language.

Dickinson’s poetry is remarkable for its tightly controlled emotional and intellectual energy. The longest poem covers less than two pages. Yet in theme and tone her writing reaches for the sublime as it charts the landscape of the human soul. A true innovator, Dickinson experimented freely with conventional rhythm and meter, and often used dashes, off rhymes, and unusual metaphors—techniques that strongly influenced modern poetry. Dickinson’s idiosyncratic style, along with her deep resonance of thought and her observations about life and death, love and nature, and solitude and society, have firmly established her as one of America’s true poetic geniuses.

Includes an index of first lines.

Rachel Wetzsteon is Assistant Professor of English at William Paterson University. She has published two books of poems, The Other Stars and Home and Away.

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From Rachel Wetzsteon’s introduction to The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, writing to the editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson in July 1862, reported that she “had no portrait,” but offered the following description in place of one: “Small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well?” (Selected Letters, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, p. 175; see “For Further Reading”). Despite Dickinson’s claim, we do possess one photograph of her—a daguerreotype taken in 1847 or 1848, when she was in her late teens. The image certainly confirms her self-portrait: Her frame is tiny; her shiny hair does indeed sit boldly atop her head; and her dark eyes really do glisten like liquor at the bottom of a glass.

The photograph also suggests many of the rich puzzles and paradoxes that have informed our view of Dickinson since the last decade of the nineteenth century, when readers and critics began to read, study, and obsess over her poems. Dickinson’s body, with its delicate hands and slender torso, may resemble the fragile form of someone too weak to venture far from home; but her huge moist eyes stare at us with the wisdom, depth, and longing of a woman who has traveled around the world and come back with stories, not all of them fit for mixed company. She demurely clutches a bouquet of flowers, and a book rests primly at her side; but her full, sensuous lips reveal a person whose thoughts may not always tend toward such tidy subjects as flowers and books. We look away from the photograph intrigued and stirred: What’s going on in her mind? How could this slight figure be the author of some of the most passionate love poems, the most searing descriptions of loss, the most haunting religious lyrics ever written?

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on December 10, 1830, the middle child of Edward and Emily Norcross Dickinson; her brother, Austin, was born in 1829 and her sister, Lavinia, in 1833. Her father, a lawyer, served as treasurer of Amherst College (her grandfather was a co-founder of the college), and also occupied important positions on the General Court of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts State Senate, and the United States House of Representatives. “His Heart,” Dickinson wrote in a letter, “was pure and terrible and I think no other like it exists” (Letters, p. 223). He was strictly religious (something she would later rebel against), leading the family prayers every day and often censoring her reading; but he also ensured that Dickinson grew up in a household surrounded by books and heated intellectual debates. Her mother was a more shadowy presence; Dickinson wrote that she “does not care for thought” (Letters, p. 173); more harshly, she claimed, “I never had a mother. I suppose a mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled” (Letters, vol. 2, p. 475). Even so, the Dickinsons remained an extremely close-knit family; after her brother, Austin, married, he and his wife settled right next door.

Dickinson attended the coeducational Amherst Academy from the ages of ten to seventeen, and then went on to the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College) in nearby South Hadley. She blossomed there into a social and spirited young woman. The most significant event of her stay occurred at a fundamentalist Calvinist revival meeting, when she was asked to stand and declare herself a Christian and refused. After one year at Mount Holyoke she returned in 1948 to Amherst, where she remained, apart from brief trips to Boston, Cambridge, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., for the rest of her life.

At school and at home, Dickinson received an excellent education. At the Amherst Academy alone she studied the arts, English literature, rhetoric, philosophy, Latin, French, German, history, geography, classics, and the Bible; she also received a firm grounding in the sciences, mathematics, geology, botany, natural history, physiology, and astronomy. At home the Dickinsons’ large and varied library included books by Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow, Shakespeare, Keats, the Brownings, the Brontës, and George Eliot, along with Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language—which for Dickinson would prove one of the most important books of all—and a healthy dose of newspapers and romance novels.

During her early twenties, Dickinson began to dress in white, to leave her house only on rare occasions, and to restrict the circle of her acquaintances until it numbered just a few people. Often speaking to visitors through a screen or from an adjoining room, she soon developed a reputation as a town eccentric. The young Mabel Loomis Todd, having recently moved to Amherst with her husband, David, remarked in a letter to her parents about a strange resident:

I must tell you about the character of Amherst. It is a lady whom all the people call the Myth. She is a sister of Mr. Dickinson, & seems to be the climax of all the family oddity. She has not been outside her house in fifteen years, except once to see a new church, when she crept out at night, & viewed it by moonlight. No one who calls upon her mother & sister ever sees her, but she allows little children once in a great while, & one at a time, to come in, when she gives them cake or candy, or some nicety, for she is very fond of little ones. But more often she lets down the sweetmeat by a string, out of a window, to them. She dresses wholly in white, & her mind is said to be perfectly wonderful. She writes finely, but no one ever sees her. Her sister . . . invited me to come & sing to her mother sometime. . . . People tell me the myth will hear every note—she will be near, but unseen. . . . Isn’t that like a book? So interesting (Farr, Emily Dickinson: A Collection of Critical Essays, p. 20).

One can hardly blame Todd for being fascinated by such an unusual “character.” But unfortunately, the “myth” she takes such pleasure in describing influenced our later notions of Dickinson much too heavily. Despite her seclusion, a large number of prominent figures came and went through her house. She also developed deep, though largely epistolary, friendships with several people: the clergyman Charles Wadsworth, whom she met in Philadelphia and described as her “dearest earthly friend”; Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican; and Judge Otis Phillips Lord of Salem, Massachusetts.

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The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 362 reviews.
kglnyc More than 1 year ago
this edition does not preserve Dickinson's unique use of punctuation and dashes. Truly a failure on the part of the editor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Emily Dickinson is awesome---plain and simple---and I think everyone deserves a great big tome of her poems. However, I wouldn't recommend this one. While all collections you pick up may be edited, this one is the worst of the litter. In fact, most of the dashes Dickinson is known for using so religously don't exist in this one, replaced by commas and semicolons and such. I've kept the rating high in honor of Dickinson, but I'd get a different edition if I were you.
BenMI More than 1 year ago
Dickinson's use of dashes is one of her trademarks, and in an attempt to make the text more visually appealing (one has to imagine), the idiosyncrasies of Dickinson are lost. Don't give up on the poet - give up on this edition (spend the extra ten bucks and buy a definitive edition!).
Guest More than 1 year ago
When you picture Emily Dickinson you not may think of a younger woman who sat at a desk with a feather pen. You may think of her as a social woman who held parties and spent hours outside writing her personal thoughts on the life she encountered. But, in truth, Emily Dickinson was a young woman who spent hours inside one house in one room most of her life. You wouldn't expect the depth of the writing in this collection of poems, especially coming from a woman who had this lifestyle. Dickinson's writing style seems to be depressing, but the more you think about them, they can be quite soothing and uplifting. If you pick this book up, you must be in the mood to really concentrate, because these poems can be difficult to understand. These poems were written in the 1800's, so it might help to be familiar with this writing. However, this book provides a taste for different language than that of today. These poems also provide relief and escapefrom your life, helping you to uncover a deeper way of thinking, and access to someone else's thoughts. These poems are wonderful, and I highly reccomend them to teens and adults of all ages!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I happen to disagree from the first comment made. I found these poems filled with beauty that was ever most well written. Sure some were depressing but thats the beauty of it. It gives you a new perspective of how to go through life. It blissfully tells you hidden advice as well as helps you think ever so clearly. I fell in love with every word written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really am not a fan of poetry. I enjoyed this collection though. I find Dickinson's poems to be about as exciting as poetry has gotten for me. The fact that the structure of her writings is so unconventional makes them even more endearing. I found it hard to understand the meaning of many of the poems though. My attention span for poetry is short so take my review with a grain of salt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Emily Dickinson is an amazing poet in my point of view. I just started getting really into her work when I started reading this book. At first i had seen a poem of hers that was in my social studies book and I loved it. That poem inspired me to start writing poems on my own time. One day I hope my poems will be as good as Emily Dickinson's!
Orla More than 1 year ago
I read this book every now and then when I wanted to delve into some wonderful poetry, and I will tell you I was not disappointed. While I must admit that sometimes I didn't fully understand the whole meaning of some of Emily's poems; I always understood the heart behind them. I recommend this to any poetry lover or someone who wants to broaden their literary tastes.
Woolley_Bear More than 1 year ago
This is a great collection of the poems of perhaps one of America's premier poets. Every emotion is explored here. You'll laugh and cry and nod your head saying, "Ah yes, how true, how true". A comforting book to peruse on a quiet evening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Emily Dickinson was the greatest writer of her century. Yet still her poetry transcends the ages and still are in todays fame driven society.
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ShuGunGao More than 1 year ago
Emily Dickinson is very pleasing to read. This book is a nice collection. Reading Emily Dickenson out loud to my family is a good way to spend the night.
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The poems were very nice.
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