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Hi, I'm Heather Kamins for About.com, and I'm here to talk to you about Emily Dickinson.Emily Dickinson was an American poet whose massive catalog of poems were largely unpublished during her life. She was born in Amherst, Mass. in 1830 to a family of long American lineage and success. However, she was deeply introverted. Living in the family house, she would have great difficulty even meeting visitors to their home. However, Dickinson would throughout her life maintain regular correspondence to friends, family and mentors.One key figure in her life was a family friend and attorney, Benjamin Franklin Newton. He introduced her to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who would prove to be a profound influence on her work. Another friend of hers was Susan Gilbert, to whom several hundred letters are known to have been written.Whatever her reclusive tendencies, Emily Dickinson was a prolific poet, turning out close to 1,800 in her lifetime. Her output was most prodigious in the early 1860s. She had begun her full withdrawal from social interactions, but filled that void with poems that were now more deeply emotional reflections of her personality. Themes of life and death came to the fore during this time.But it is difficult to pin a thematic focus on her work. She wrote about a variety of subjects in her life, from flowers to the Gospel. She would often bind these poems together in rough books called fascicles. Her poetry features a variety of styles and syntax. Her choices of imagery are interesting and diverse, and she wrote in a variety of meters, often in the form of the ballad stanza. Generally speaking her poems were written without titles, in a halting style that has been compared to rough drafts.Dickinson suffered many personal losses. As she became fully reclusive, her poetic output also diminished. The few later sightings of her described her as "the woman in white." When she finally died of Bright's disease in May 1886, she was buried in a white coffin, carried through a field of buttercups. Her legacy grew after her death, after her sister Lavinia discovered her enormous cache of poems. The first major publication of her poems happened four years later, though a family feud over her manuscripts prevented a complete publication of her works for almost fifty years.She is now considered one of the most important American poets of all time. Here's one of her most famous poems, "I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died":I heard a Fly buzz when I died-The Stillness in the RoomWas like the Stillness in the Air-Between the Heaves of Storm-Thanks for watching. To learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.
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