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Spinel's avatar

How was Emily Dickinson able to write excellent poems with her limited exposure?

Asked by Spinel (3220points) February 12th, 2010

It seems that inspiration and experience is necessary for writing of depth. They say the best way to get inspiration is to travel and see new things. They also say travel stimulates the imagination. I know several people hold to the opinion that new ideas are necessary to keep the fire of fantasy going in a writer’s mind. Basically, getting out into the world is essential to avoid writer’s block or stale text.

Then here comes Emily Dickinson. While other writers were traveling to Europe, becoming editors and attending universities, she completed only one year of higher education and then returned home, where she isolated herself in her home from most of the world. One would think such a quiet and drab existence would lead to bland poems, and yet she produced rich ones. Today, she is one of the most widely read American poets.

How is it possible for a person who was a near social and cultural hermit to come up with high grade poems? How is it possible for a person who only left her home town a few times to write such quality poems? How can a near hermit have such varied subject matter? Thoughts?

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12 Answers

ChaosCross's avatar

I think it is because just because going somewhere different can help the imagination, that is not the real meat of the imagination and of writing.

I think she was able to write the way she did simply because she had the things already on her mind, that and her view was incredibly limited. Going into the backyard could have been an exciting adventure for her when for someone else it would be the same old boring stuff.

absalom's avatar

Her isolation was not as extreme as so many people like to believe.

susanc's avatar

Intensity trumps tearing around heedlessly.
Paying attention is as good as wide variety.

Ria777's avatar

a little thing called genius. and, really, a great writer shapes the form and we fill it. those emotions you feel when you read her work came from you as well.

aprilsimnel's avatar

She was extremely well read, she was naturally very sensitive emotionally and she had a great imagination.

wundayatta's avatar

Amherst is a beautiful place. Her house is pretty cool, too. She only needed to walk a few feet and she could be in hills or fields or whatever.

She also had (or appeared to have) a rich and dramatic emotional life, filled with longing for what she could not have. Finally, she was probably depressed. She also spent a lot of time hiding in her room. When you do that, you probably have a rich fantasy life. I haven’t read many of her poems recently. I only read the ones most meaningful to me—Because I would not stop for death.

I think it’s a myth that a writer has to have this experience or that one. I think you need intelligence, imagination and a keen eye for what is happening around you.

susanc's avatar

@wundayatta: And, of course, a diagnosis.

wundayatta's avatar

@susanc I you say so.

It’s unfortunate that many people think that creative types are all crazy. It’s a myth, in my opinion. One hardly need be crazy to be creative, I’m not sure it even helps.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

@wundayatta is absolutely right. I live in Massachusetts and I have been to her house and town many times. Amherst is gorgeous, and so is all of Pioneer Valley (Especially in the fall). Plus she was in very close range to the Green Mountains and Berkshires, which are also gorgeous. Going there definitely sparks my imagination.

One does not need to be overly-educated or well traveled to be full of imagination and creativity. You can’t buy those things.

Haleth's avatar

Part of the reason Emily Dickinson is so admired is that her style was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. When artists are around each other a lot they tend to influence each other and make things that are similar in style. Maybe being isolated actually helped her develop a unique creative voice.

rentluva5256's avatar

She had a gift.

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