Emily Dickinson: An Underestimated Genius: Justice Summit 2018-2019

By Aadit Trivedi ’21

On the last day of breakout sessions, Mr. DeLateur shared his thoughts outlining the genius character of Emily Dickinson. According to Mr. DeLateur, Dickinson easily makes the “top three” for the greatest poets of all time.

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Mr. DeLateur began with some background information and history regarding Dickinson’s life. Dickinson grew up in a Puritan-dominated society which disregarded the true value of women and only worried about women getting married. However, Dickinson defied norms because she would read books and remain a recluse locked up in her room.

However, unlike many famous poets, Dickinson only gained recognition after her death. Her sister, Lavinia, was looking through Dickinson’s closets and found hundreds of “fascicles,” or bundles of, poems.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson was an author who was very interested in Dickinson’s poems. Approximately, four years after Dickinson’s death, Higginson published a compilation of poems, except with a catch – Higginson saw it fit to make modifications to Dickinson’s poems as he pleased. This raised a particular question regarding the morality of modification or posthumous publication.

Although Dickinson’s poems were initially tampered with, a few decades rolled by and an original version of her poems were finally published – or as Mr. DeLateur calls it, a “happy ending.”

While Dickinson was never a feminist poet, she definitely had messages to send regarding her beliefs of gender. In the following verse of one of Dickinson’s many poems, Dickinson touches on gender roles of her era:

I GAVE myself to him,

And took himself for pay.

The solemn contract of a life

Was ratified this way.

Mr. DeLateur then went on to describe Dickinson’s writing style. Emily Dickinson defines poetry as a book that “makes my whole body so cold no fire could ever warm [her].” Thus, Dickinson seeks to create powerful poetry by drawing connections to the reader and alluding to big pictures with everyday messages.

Finally, Mr. DeLateur concluded the informative presentation by letting the audience analyze a few of her poems.

As a woman, Emily Dickinson empowered herself and made her voice heard through poetry despite societal views on women. And while Dickinson may have been a poet of the past, her messages, including those on gender, remain a relevant part of society today.