Happy Birthday ! Emily Dickinson

Welcome to Tuesday’s Bell Ringer :

If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.

Emily Dickinson

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet.

Her  most famous poem by Dickinson, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” is ranked among the greatest poems in the English language. It metaphorically describes hope as a bird that rests in the soul, sings continuously and never demands anything even in the direst circumstances

Dickinson’s poems generally fall into three distinct periods, the works in each period having certain general characters in common.

  • Pre-1861. These are often conventional and sentimental in nature. Thomas H. Johnson, who later published The Poems of Emily Dickinson, was able to date only five of Dickinson’s poems before 1858. Two of these are mock valentines done in an ornate and humorous style, and two others are conventional lyrics, one of which is about missing her brother Austin. The fifth poem, which begins “I have a Bird in spring”, conveys her grief over the feared loss of friendship and was sent to her friend Sue Gilbert.
  • 1861–1865. This was her most creative period—these poems represent her most vigorous and creative work. Johnson estimated that she composed 86 poems in 1861, 366 in 1862, 141 in 1863, and 174 in 1864. He also believed that during this period, she fully developed her themes of life and mortality.
  • Post-1866. It is estimated that two-thirds of the entire body of her poetry was written before this yea

Teaching student about Emily Dickerson:

What is Emily Dickinson’s style of poetry?Form and Style Dickinson’s poems are lyrics, generally defined as short poems with a single speaker (not necessarily the poet) who expresses thought and feeling. … In one, the poem is broken into four stanzas of four lines each; in the other, as you see here, there are no stanza breaks.

“Much Madness is divinest Sense” – Many consider Emily Dickinson a bit of a nut. Here’s her response.

  1. Pull out your cell phone. Acting as crazy as possible, laud the merits of a phone that can take a picture and send it to someone thousands of miles away.
  2. Explain that 20 years ago, you would have been laughed at for such nonsense.
  3. Discuss historical figures thought to be insane–Galileo, Joan of Arc, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King Jr., for example.
  4. The point of the discussion should be to inspire class members to be wary of mediocrity and conformity.

“A Bird came down the Walk” – Dickinson poeticizes her observation of a bird through imagery and simile.

  1. Instruct students to write a poetic description using similes and imagery of an every day scene.

“She sweeps with many-colored brooms.” – Speaking of imagery–Dickinson uses personification and imagery to describe a sunset.

“She sweeps with many-colored brooms” is a poem written by Emily Dickinson. This poem is interesting in that a housewife is compared to the sun. Throughout the day she sweeps and in the evening she simply uses a different colored broom, purple with amber and sweeping up emerald (the sunset). As the evening goes on, the broom starts to have spots (stars) until it is dark and completely covered with them. Then finally, the housewife goes away (it’s night).

This is a three stanza poem made up of four lines each. The second and fourth lines of each stanza are rhymed imperfectly while being shorter than the lines before them.

  1. Before reading the poem, instruct students to write a description of a sunset.
  2. Read the poem. Students will feel inadequate (as will teachers).
  3. Use this lesson plan on showing, not telling (coming soon).
  4. Instruct students to write a poem describing sunsets or any other natural phenomenon.

Emily A Biography of Emily Dickinson for Students


Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was a recluse, a woman who spent most of her life shut up in her family house dreaming through her poetry, with little hope or desire of recognition, publication, or criticism. Her work was published by two of her surviving friends after her death. Had they not seen the value of her work, the world would have missed one of the greatest poets who ever lived.

Once her poetry was published, its merits became evident. It has been embraced, studied, and analyzed by scholars, critics, and admirers worldwide. Her life has been the subject of countless books, articles, and lectures. Why is there such fascination with the contours of her life as well as her words? Despite leading the life of an introvert, she wrote with heightened expressiveness and leaps of imagination. Her poetry is unconventional in form and style, and is compelling in its originality and imagery. The sheer quantity of it is breathtaking. Yet, she wrote it on scraps of paper and discarded bags, and tucked it away in dresser drawers.

This is a biography of Emily Dickinson for students. It introduces her to the next generation and explores her life story while also introducing many literary concepts and themes. There are numerous passages of her work in the text, as well as a selection of full-length poems. Also included is a pictorial section, which includes rare images of her handwritten letters and poems. Finally, a study guide offers students a list of books selected for further reading.

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