It happened in Amherst in 1886.
When Emily Dickinson died, the family discovered eighteen hundred poems hidden in her bedroom.
On tiptoe she lived, and on tiptoe she wrote. She published only eleven poems in her entire lifetime, all anonymously or under a pseudonym.
From her Puritan ancestors, she inherited boredom, a mark of distinction for her race and her class: do not touch, do not speak. Gentlemen went into politics and business; ladies perpetuated the species and lived in ill health.
Emily inhabited solitude and silence. Cloistered in her bedroom, she invented poems that broke the rules of grammar and the rules of her own isolation. And every day she wrote a letter to her sister-in-law Susan, who lived next door, and sent it by mail.
Those poems and letters formed a secret sanctuary. There, her hidden sorrows and forbidden desires could yearn freely.
Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
By Eduardo Galeano
I would not paint — a picture
I would not paint — a picture —
I’d rather be the One
It’s bright impossibility
To dwell — delicious — on —
And wonder how the fingers feel
Whose rare — celestial — stir —
Evokes so sweet a torment —
Such sumptuous — Despair —
I would not talk, like Cornets —
I’d rather be the One
Raised softly to the Ceilings —
And out, and easy on —
Through Villages of Ether —
Myself endued Balloon
By but a lip of Metal —
The pier to my Pontoon —
Nor would I be a Poet —
It’s finer — Own the Ear —
Emily Dickinson, “I would not paint — a picture —” from The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition, ed by Ralph W. Franklin. Copyright © 1998 by Emily Dickinson.
Janet Malcolm Turns Emily Dickinson’s Poetry Into Visual Art
The twenty-six collages that make up Janet Malcolm’s arresting and faintly melancholy “Emily Dickinson Series,” the artist’s fifth solo exhibition at Lori Bookstein Fine Art in Chelsea, look on first view like leaves from some late Victorian archive, though the field of science or art to which they belong remains unclear. Certain motifs recur: vintage photographs of the 1874 transit of Venus, a rare astronomical event when the planet Venus passes directly between the sun and the earth, resembling a beauty spot traversing the face of the sun; a photograph of a bearded astronomer identified as David Todd (“the depressed astronomer,” as Malcolm came to think of him), who photographed the transit of 1882; gnomic passages by Emily Dickinson in typewritten transcriptions; and, finally, sheets of brownish transparent paper, of the kind once used to protect art books, variously folded and draped like veils across portions of the works.