Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on December 10, 1830 and died there on May 15, 1886. She left behind, in manuscript, nearly 1800 poems, mostly untitled lyrics and brief allegorical narratives; only ten poems were published in her lifetime, and those anonymously. Some of the poems are trivial, mere quips, but about thirty of them, by my count, are among the finest lyrics in the language. Dickinson also wrote more than 1,000 letters—an unknown number have been destroyed—most of them distinctive enough in style to invite the same kind of attention as the poems. It was her occasional practice to enclose her poems in letters to friends, especially to her sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson, who lived with her husband Austin in the house next door called the Evergreens. Sometimes it is hard to separate a poem from the letter that accompanied it.

In her new volume, Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries,...

 
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