Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Modern Library Series)

Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson (Modern Library Series)

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by Emily Dickinson

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Emily Dickinson lived as a recluse in Amherst, Massachusetts, dedicating herself to writing a "letter to the world"—the 1,775 poems left unpublished at her death in 1886. Today, Dickinson stands in the front rank of American poets. This enthralling collection includes more than four hundred poems that were published between Dickinson's death and 1900


Emily Dickinson lived as a recluse in Amherst, Massachusetts, dedicating herself to writing a "letter to the world"—the 1,775 poems left unpublished at her death in 1886. Today, Dickinson stands in the front rank of American poets. This enthralling collection includes more than four hundred poems that were published between Dickinson's death and 1900. They express her concepts of life and death, of love and nature, and of what Henry James called "the landscape of the soul." And as Billy Collins suggests in his Introduction, "In the age of the workshop, the reading, the poetry conference and festival, Dickinson reminds us of the deeply private nature of literary art."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"No one can read these poems...without perceiving that he is not so much reading as being spoken to."
—Archibald MacLeish

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Modern Library Classics Series
Edition description:
2000 Modern Library Paperback Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.17(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

Today Emily Dickinson is recognized not only as a major poet of the American nineteenth century but also as one of the most intriguing poets of any place or time, in both her art and her life. The outline of her biography is well known. She was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830 and, except for a few excursions to Philadelphia, Washington, and Boston, spent her entire life there, increasingly limiting her activities to her father's house. "I do not cross my Father's ground to any House or Town," she wrote, referring to a personal reclusiveness that was noticeable even to her contemporaries. In the front corner bedroom of that house on Main Street, Dickinson wrote over 1,700 poems, often on scraps of paper and on the backs of grocery lists, only a handful of which were published in her lifetime and then anonymously. She was known to give poems to friends and neighbors, often as an accompaniment to the cakes and cookies she baked, sometimes lowering them from an upstairs window in a basket. Her habit of binding groups of poems together into little booklets called fascicles might indicate she felt her poems were presentable, but most of her poems never went farther than her desk drawer where they were discovered by her sister after Dickinson's death in 1886 of kidney failure. In her lifetime, her poetry remained unknown, and although a few small editions of her poems were published in the 1890s, it was not until 1955 that a reliable scholarly edition appeared, transcribing the poems precisely from the original manuscripts and preserving all of Dickinson's typographical eccentricities (see Note). Convincingly or not, she called publication "the auction of the mind" and compared the public figure to a frog croaking to the admiring audience of a bog.

It is fascinating to consider the case of a person who led such a private existence and whose poems remained unrecognized for so long after her death, as if she had lain asleep only to be awakened by the kiss of the twentieth century. The quirky circumstances of her life have received as much if not more commentary than the poems themselves. Some critics valorize her seclusion as a form of female self-sufficiency; others make her out to be a victim of her culture. Still others believe that her solitariness has been exaggerated. She did attend school, after all, and she maintained many intimate relationships by letter. Moreover, it was less eccentric in her day than in ours for one daughter—she had a brother who was a lawyer and a sister who married—to remain home to run the household and assist her parents. Further, all writers need privacy; all must close the door on the world to think and compose. But Dickinson's separateness—which has caused her to be labeled a homebody, a spinster, and a feminist icon among other things—took extreme forms. She was so shy that her sister Lavinia would be fitted for her clothes; she wore only white for many years ("Wear nothing commoner than snow"); and she rarely would address an envelope, afraid that her handwriting would be seen by the eyes of strangers. When asked of her companions, she replied in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, "Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog large as myself that my father bought me."

However tempting it is to search through the biographical evidence for a solution to the enigma of Emily Dickinson's life, we must remember that no such curiosity would exist were it not for the poems themselves. Her style is so distinctive that anyone even slightly acquainted with her poems would recognize a poem on the page as an Emily Dickinson poem, if only for its shape. Here is a typical example:

'T is little I could care for pearls
Who own the ample sea;
Or brooches when the Emperor
With rubies pelteth me;
Or gold, who am the Prince of Mines;
Or diamonds, when I see
A diadem to fit a dome
Continual crowning me.

Meet the Author

Many of Emily Dickinson's poems have been reprinted in anthologies, selections, textbooks for recitation, and they have increasingly found their elect and been best interpreted by the expansion of those lives they have seized upon by force of their natural, profound intuition of the miracles of every day Life, Love, and Death.

She herself was of the part of life that is always youth, always magical. She wrote of it as she grew to know it, step by step, discovery by discovery, truth by truth - until time merely became eternity.

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Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I was looking for a book for school, more specifically a certain poem. I think this site would be much more useful if there was some way to link to a list of the poems in the book, it might help customers figure out a little better what they are looking for.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Emily Dickinson¿s poems can be long and boring or so interesting that you just can not put that huge book of poems down. It is all in what type of reader you are and what poems you read of hers. Considering there are thousands of her poems throughout many different books, it¿s impossible to read them all. The book I read (which I felt had a very diverse variety of poems) was ¿The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson¿; this book I feel had everything you are looking for. For the common reader or the deep poetry person this book contains something for everyone¿s taste buds. It also contains different chapters on different topics such as: life, nature, love, and time and eternity. To anyone who would love to sit down and read a few good poems before going to bed, this book is for you. Dickinson can express herself in many different ways, taking you on a new roller coaster every time. The different topics expressed in this book all have their different ways of being written and no matter how short or long, the writing is just better and better. I found that the first few poems in the book started off slow. I found the first few poems slow because they were all pretty long and very hard for me to comprehend. After that they all flowed nicely together and they got better every time. They were better because they flowed nicely together and were shorter and easier to read one after another. Overall this book was very good. I gave this book four stars for all the reasons mentioned above and because i enjoyed reading it.