Emily Dickinson


May 12, 2004


She lived the life of a recluse, considered odd at her best and insane at her worst. Emily Dickinson was not considered “normal” by most people’s standards, and neither was her poetry. She used her sheltered life in Amherst to contrast the expansive universe her poetry encompassed.


As a child, Dickinson appeared like an average schoolgirl. Inside, she knew she was different, a mourner among the children. She came from a religious and well-to-do family. She chose to follow her own Sabbath, which she observed at home. The vivid imagination that produced poems such as “Because I could not stop for Death” and “I heard a fly buzzed when I died” also produced an imaginary love for her mentor Charles Wadsworth. While Wadsworth was not the only man she fell for, he is a template for other gentlemen that captivated Dickinson’s imagination. Thomas Wentworth Higginson was another mentor (and unavailable) mentor of Emily’s. It was through these psuedo-relationships that Dickinson experienced the heartache and pain she so gracefully penned.


Dickinson was a master observer, be it in the heart, mind, birds, flowers, or insects, Dickinson sought to breath new air into topics that have possessed the pens of poets for hundreds of years. She succeeded.


Dickinson’s style was extremely unique. Since her poems were untitled, the first line of the poem became the title. Other trademark Dickinson techniques included brevity and four-lined stanzas with ABCB rhyming patterns.


Dickinson found inspiration in style through religious texts. She often used numerous rhyming styles and patterns. Slant rhyme, like coupling nerve with love or society with majority, focuses on words that aren’t perfect rhymes. Another sort of rhyming Dickinson used was eye rhyming, in which words look like they would rhyme, but are pronounced so that they don’t, like cough and bough.


The punctuation Emily used is also very characteristic of her writing. Often she used the dash to separate and emphasize certain ideas and emotions. It also served to break up sentences. In addition she also used commas and periods, though not as heavily as the dash. Dickinson also would capitalize certain words in her poems, perhaps to emphasize those terms.


The mechanics are not the only mark of classic Dickinson. The poet also relied heavily on metaphysical poetry and unconventional imagery, such in the poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” Emily uses positive imagery, such as civility, to put and ironic spins on death. Many of the poems addressed the familiar topics of death, love, beauty, and heartache. Her fame could be attributed to the fresh style she approached the topics with.


With my poem, I’m trying to mirror Dickinson’s style techniques. I’m also trying to take a fresh and original look at my subject matter, being the devil/demons. This is extremely difficult, and puts the effort Dickinson’s must have invested into perspective.


The fervor of the Centipede


The fervor of the Centipede


As he scuttles up the wall —


Enraptured by his Prey


Slowing to a crawl.


Bewitched by his Sinister Ways


Humanity pays the price —


I know not how It started,


Slicing evenly every piece.


The sins fall on everyone’s’ heads


Shell smashed — blind to Virtue and Merit


Failure to kill the Demon


And the Centipede can bear it.


There is no fair or unjust


In the end the insect stands tall


In his race to the finish line


The Centipede’s conquered — the wall