The Sunday Magazine

Beauty, death, nature and the soul: Emily Dickinson for the 21st century

Emily Dickinson’s path from unknown hermit to full-blown icon is unique in American poetry. The first word of the first poem that she ever wrote was "awake." Almost two centuries later, Emily Dickinson is still jolting us into consciousness. We reprise our one-hour special, which was produced by Karen Levine.

Originally published in 2011.

She may just be the voice we need right now. She knew isolation and distancing better than most. And her poems? Well, she's Emily Dickinson. Dickinson has always had much to say to us. But maybe — in the middle of the strange times we find ourselves in — we will hear her in a new and different way.

Almost two centuries after her birth, Emily Dickinson, the great American poet is still jolting us into consciousness.

Her work was original, eccentric, pre-occupied with nature, with beauty, with death, and with the life of the soul.

Dickinson herself was an enigma, a legendary recluse, who allowed only four of her poems to be published before she died in 1886. 

She has always had fans and admirers, those who parse her every word and dash for the deepest meaning, hang on every image and phrase. And she is widely considered one of America's greatest poets.

The Sunday Edition's host Michael Enright spoke to Lyndall Gordon, a Dickinson biographer who offers a radical reinterpretation of the poet's life and work.

We travel to Amherst, listen in on the Dickinson poetry marathon, catch the results of the Emily Dickinson bake-off and meet some of the people whose lives the poet has changed and enriched. And, of course, we hear the poems, and the poetry set to music.

​Click 'listen' above to hear the one-hour special. For more on Emily Dickinson's life, work, and inspirations, you can hear Eleanor Wachtel in conversation with biographer Martha Ackmann on Writers & Company on Sunday, May 31 or listen online.


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