December 10, 2010

Dickinson: I'm nobody! Who are you?

Emily Dickinson was born in the family homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10, 1830. Though not as reclusive as some would suggest (including Mabel Loomis Todd, who later claimed the poet spent decades without stepping past the threshold), she would spend most of her life in the family home — now open as the Emily Dickinson Museum. She went to school outside the home, for example, and later attended Amherst Academy. Even so, she became known as a ghost-like figure in Amherst, one which was rarely seen. She once wrote, "Some keep the Sabbath going to church / I keep it staying at home."

Dickinson wrote her poetry in her home. However, her poems would not make her famous until after her death as only a few were published in her lifetime. Nevertheless, she was encouraged by Thomas Wentworth Higginson to keep writing and, though she asked that her letters be destroyed after her death, she said nothing about her poems.

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

The Emily Dickinson Museum holds an annual birthday open house. I highly recommend a visit!


  1. does it really need a comment?!?!?!?!

  2. This is a treat; thanks for posting it.

  3. Hello Rob,

    Synchronicity reigns! As I was about to suggest a few editorial corrections to your most-welcome post on ED's birthday, the changes popped right up!--making my proposed entry superfluous.

    But ah!--this allows me to expand-on (despite another blogger suggesting no need to comment) your ED quote re the "keep the Sabbath/staying at home" passage.

    This poem of hers, #324, is such a paean to the small, sacred aspects of Nature ("...a Bobolink for a Chorister"--and the little singing Sexton being a wren or some other outspoken bird).

    So, as Emily posits, "instead of going to Heaven, at last," she was "going, all along."

    Would that we all do the same, homebodies or no!


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