The Poet Who Never Left Her House

We’ve all cancelled plans to stay at home at one point or another.

But what if you stayed home for the rest of your life? What if the four walls that make up your home are all that you needed — all that you’re happy with knowing? What if, despite how small your world had become, you saw beauty in everything?

Meet Emily Dickinson:


She was a teen rebel

Born in 1830 as the middle child of a well-to-do family in New England, Emily spent her early years receiving a rigorous education few girls had at her time.

By the time her teen years rolled around, Emily was known for being a bit of a rebel at school.

Source: Giphy

Her community tried to mould her to become a woman of their times — subservient, conservative, and most importantly, married. Emily resisted this and preferred to fly against social norms. She began putting her incredible imagination to work by writing poetry.

Source: Giphy

College didn’t work out for her, so Emily dropped out after a single year. After her first and only trip outside of her home state of Massachusetts, Emily thereafter remained in her father’s house for the rest of her life to care for her sick mother.

She was a poetic genius who worked from home

From then on, Emily gradually began withdrawing from social life, but her poetry exploded with creativity. She pushed her craft to new levels and invented a style totally unique to her, using funky punctuation and capitalisation to play with the flow of her poems.

She wrote about everything, big and small. She saw beauty in even the most mundane things, and her words, though simple, give off a great sense of mystery. Take a look at this excerpt from her most famous poem, Hope Is The Thing With Feathers:

Source: Giphy

To give you an idea of how innovative her style was, her pen pal and only literary critic, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, had to advise her against publishing, probably because he thought her poetry would not be appreciated by the very traditional public.

The literary world was literally not ready for her.

Source: Giphy

Emily continued to live life with only her family and a few close friends to keep her company. She picked up a few quirks, like only wearing white clothes and collecting bird nests. In the last two decades of her life, she never left her house and cemented her reputation as a recluse.

Source: Giphy

She was only discovered after death

After her death from kidney failure at age 55, her 1,800 poems were uncovered, compiled, and published by her family. Since then, her words have lived on through the centuries, and her name remains in the ranks of America’s greatest poets.

Now that you know her story, it’s time to discover the incredible world of Emily Dickinson’s poetry:

The Essental Emily Dickinson — Joyce Carol Oates

Ecco Press, 2016

Get the book here: Physical Copy


All books featured are available via the NLB Mobile app or at our public libraries.

Text by
National Reading Movement
National Library Board


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