When we came up to CT, we planned to meet the Trudeau’s in Massachusetts to go to the Emily Dickenson House. It was AWESOME! Sadly, we could not take pictures inside the house, but we learned a lot about her life, her writing and the town she lived in, Amherst, MA.
While the house is a great legacy to her life, she actually did not write or live there her entire life. During financial strife, the family moved to a house (no longer standing) near the town green. This is where she wrote many poems, including my favorite, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” They said perhaps these melancholy poems were do to the fact that the funeral precessions would travel in front of her home.
There were a lot of really interesting things our tour guide told us on our visit, here are a few highlights:
Emily Dickenson loved children. She never married, or had her own, but when her nieces and nephews would play outside she would lower down gingerbread and cakes to them on a pulley from her bedroom. They would fill up the basket with flowers and treasures from the yard.
ED’s father worked (owned?) a hat factory where they made the palm fronds hats! Funny thing to make in Massachusetts right??
ED had one sister. She was very close to her sister, and she told her sister to burn all her letters when she died, because what was said in the letters was of no ones concern. She did burn them all. ED was a ferocious letter writer, and probably had thousands.
She wrote at a desk the size of the one in the picture. The original desk is at Harvard.
The thing I found most interesting is Emily Dickenson wrote many poems, over 1,200 in her lifetime. She wrote more than one version of many of her poems. Often she changed words out, in the margins she would write alternate words. These words were not synonyms, they completely changed the meaning or the feeling of the poem. I thought it was really interesting. So, consequently, there has NEVER been a book which has published her ‘entire’ body of work. You will notice if you go to buy an Emily Dickenson book in a store they ALWAYS say “edited by…” that is because the editors choose which word they will use in a given poem. Crazy isn’t it??
Another crazy detail...when Emily died and her poems first went to print, poetry written in prose was popular, so the first publication changed her poems so they would have rhyme and rhythm! Luckily, as time past people saw the beauty in the uniqueness of her verse and more recent versions are inclusive of her original style.
The final thing I found fascinating—although admittedly I have not tried—according to our tour guide if you read every ED poem to the beat of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’ it flows perfectly off your tongue. Try it and let me know what you think!!
If you are looking for information on Emily Dickenson, I highly recommend this site:
This is my letter to the world,
Her message is committed