Emily Dickinson: The Influential Figure in the Poetry Field
Poetry is an art, and has positively influenced my life in more ways than just one. Most notably, it has kept me from drowning in the waves of my emotions; poetry acts as a megaphone to amplify my feelings. It is a way for my inner voice to be heard by not just other people, but myself as well. Poetry allows me the opportunity to express both the good and bad things about growing up in this generation, as well as being able to transport myself to previous time periods to understand their viewpoints. When I read poetry, my mind escapes reality and channels a new perspective on my surroundings. There is something beautiful about reading a poem and being able to draw parallels between the ideas and themes presented with your own personal experiences and feelings. Poets have the ability to touch people they will never meet; this is remarkable.
Moreover, although all poets, for different reasons inspire me, Emily Dickinson has impacted me most effectively for the sole reason that her work has never failed to stimulate my interest. She inspires me to be bold and reminds me to never feel pressured to conform to society’s “majority rules.” I admire her for having been brave enough, especially as a woman, to freely ignore the usual rules of versification and grammar. In the content of her work she likewise proved herself to be very original. Dickinson believed that conformists were “mad” because if you only agree with other people you are limiting your own individual thoughts and feelings. As a result of this, alongside the fact that she withdrew from the world at age thirty to isolate herself from society and spend her days dedicated to poetry in her father’s house, the public eye labeled her as “crazy.” Though many, to this day, criticize her peculiar lifestyle, I respect her for shutting out society in order to better focus on her work and art. I believe that I speak on behalf of many readers, when I say that her poems stimulate encouragement to channel the same courage that she did.
Her unique, elegant style that incorporates unusual meters, punctuation, syntax and imagery is always instantly recognizable. In addition, her verse is well-known for its short compression, haunting personal voice, and perplexing brilliance. Having annotated many of Dickinson’s poems throughout my academic career, I can conclude that all of her poems reveal a recurring intense and individualistic vision of life. Viewed through Dickinson’s eyes the world can appear strange and alien. The dense complexity of her thought embraces both the wonders of life and the inevitability of death. It is known that she suffered from conditions such as depression and anxiety, or may have been seized due to her responsibilities as guardian of her sick mother. Personally, I feel that this makes her even more admirable, being that even though she had a weak mental state, she possessed a strong mind through her poetry. I consider it impressive how such a person so cloistered with her cognitive feelings, could pour her heart out when dealing with her personal life.
One of Dickinson’s poems, in particular, which perfectly depicts her dauntless attitude and holds great value to me, is titled “The Soul selects her own Society—”. I appreciate this poem because it represents Emily Dickinson’s moral belief, which was that it doesn’t matter what others want or expect of you, only what you want and expect of yourself. The first stanza of the poem reads, “The Soul selects her own Society —Then — shuts the Door —.” Alliteration is seen in this first line, as symbolism also plays a large role when reclusive nature is shown as the action of shutting the door. When analyzing, I noticed that the words soul, society, and door capitalized. Emily Dickinson was known for her seemingly random punctuation and capitalized letters, but it is probable that there was reason behind her actions. I think the word “soul” could be capitalized because the soul is being personified, and spoken of as a person instead of an abstract thing. Similarly, the word “society” could be capitalized for the same reasons. The use of dashes also places emphasis and allows for a dramatic effect throughout the poem. Significance of dashes– Forces you to pause often after significant words. My favorite part about this line is that Dickinson addresses the soul with the pronoun “her.” This is bold for her time period, considering that both then and now males tend to dominate and society tend to, when personifying objects, address their gender as male.
To add, this poem is about the decision the soul made about the society she wanted to be a part of. “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” first describes that the soul made her decision then “shuts the Door;” on all her other choices and what the majority wanted her to do. Others had attempted to persuade her, but she paid no attention; “Unmoved, she notes the chariots pausing At her low gate; Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling Upon her mat.” To her, others inputs did not matter. She chose to “close the valves of her attention Like stone.” I like that she chose to use the simile “Like stone” because it shows the determination of the soul in establishing her relationships, and reiterates the stubbornness with which she retains her position. The repetition of the word ‘unmoved’ illustrates the firmness with which the female soul chooses her associations and sticks with them. Thus, “The Soul Selects Her Own Society—” re-emphasizes the idea that you don’t need others consent to make a decision, it is your soul, so it is your choice. You set your own standards and choose what you take part in, and no one else can convince you to do otherwise. This is an exceptional level of confidence.
Overall, in my opinion, Emily Dickinson was light-years ahead of her time period, embodying a true, American poet. Whether society accepted her viewpoints or not, she is proven to be influential for the sake that her work stimulates thought. I idolize her talents and enjoy reading all of her work.
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