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Happy birthday, Emily Dickinson!

By Carolyn Kellogg

12:48 PM PST, December 10, 2012

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Today is the 182nd anniversary of Emily Dickinson's birth. Happy birthday, Emily Dickinson!

Dickinson may now be one of the most recognized names in poetry, but in her day, she kept much to herself. Her work was not widely known until after her death -- her first collection of poetry was published in 1890, four years after her death.

Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Mass., which was under the influence of America's new intellectual movement, the Transcendentalists, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. She attended the Amherst Academy and spent a year at Mount Holyoke before returning home.

Home is what Dickinson is known for -- she has a reputation as a recluse, a writer who would not leave her room. This picture has been refuted by some scholars, who argue that Dickinson withdrew from the responsibilities commonly assigned to a woman living at home, like hostessing and dusting, so that she could focus on her work.

Dickinson was a prolific poet, writing almost 1,800 poems. Many were circulated among her friends, particularly the women, in packets she sewed together herself. She was also an avid correspondent -- if she were alive today, she'd probably use email and social media to keep in contact with her friends. 

Of all her works, the following is one that readers often return to: "There is no Frigate like a Book."

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

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