Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Miss Emily!

Unlike many modern-day celebrities, Emily Dickinson fervently avoided the spotlight. Born in Amherst, Ma, in 1830, she lived a reclusive life, rarely seeing anyone face-to-face once she had left school and returned home to care for her mother, who suffered from chronic illness.

Her shyness extended to the point that she would listen, out of sight, after inviting a friend over to play music for her. Although she appears to have fallen in love several times during her life, she never married. Her eccentricities included dressing all in white, using unconventional punctuation and phrasing in her poems and letters, and writing letters even to those who lived nearby, such as her sister-in-law who lived just next door, rather than engaging in conversation in person.

During her lifetime, less than a dozen of her poems were pubished. Fortunately, her sister Lavinia and a couple of friends edited the rest of her poems and published them posthumously.

To read more about her life and how her work was preserved, go to

In honor of Emily Dickinson's birthday today, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite poems by this American poet and fellow New Englander.

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!
--Emily Dickinson

Some other writers and poets born in December:

Joyce Kilmer - poet Dec. 6, 1886
James Thurber - humorist - Dec. 8, 1894
John Milton - poet - Dec. 9, 1608
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - novelist - Dec. 11, 1918
Harriet Monroe - poet - Dec. 23, 1860
Robert Bly - author - Dec. 23, 1926
Mary Higgins Clark - author - Dec. 24, 1931
Rudyard Kipling - writer - Dec. 30, 1865

If you have a favorite Dickinson poem, please share it in the comments section.

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