A word often associated with Emily Dickinson is “eccentric.” As we’ve learned, she almost never left her home for the last twenty years of her life. She attended her father’s funeral while hiding in her bedroom with the door cracked open so she could hear. She was known in her neighborhood as the “Woman in White” because she wore a costume unusual for her time. And most importantly, she wrote over 1200 poems no one even knew existed until after her death. Beyond this personal eccentricity (mental illness? personality disorder? courageous non-conformity?), her poetry itself is highly eccentric. She loves unconventional capitalization, odd punctuation, arresting images, slant rhymes, inconsistency, and so forth. Do you agree with most readers that these eccentricities are actually among the poems’ greatest qualities? How does her eccentricity affect your reading of her poems? How does it invite you to engage with her ideas and her themes in a way that a more conventional form would not?
Do you agree with most readers that these eccentricities are actually among the poems’ greatest qualities?