Emily Dickinson, a creative poet during the mid-nineteenth century, wrote what many
consider to be truly American poetry. To understand why Dickinson is considered a
brilliant writer of American poetry, one must know about the time period in which she
wrote her poetry. Dickinson wrote during the era of American literature known as the Age
of Expansion (Perkins 869). This was during the first half-century after the Civil War to
the First World War which was approximately 1865-1915 (Perkins 869). During this time
period, American literature went through many drastic changes. American writers
progressively moved from romanticism to realism (Perkins 870). Realism was a much
more realistic interpretation of humanity and its destiny (Perkins 870). This new approach
addressed a larger and more general audience than the writings of the Romantic era
(Perkins 870). Although Dickinson is considered a writer from the Age of Expansion, her
style of writing combined elements from the Romantic and Realism eras (Perkins 872).

Emily Dickinson was from the Amherst village which possessed a deeply rooted identity
from Puritanical America (Perkins 872). Dickinson wrote with such a style and
compassion that her poems are still among the most popular of all American poetry today.

All but a few of her poems were published after her death. This is a great symbol of

American Patriotism for the fact that she wrote from the heart and not for a paycheck. All
of the elements combined were poured into everyone of her works and because of this,

Dickinson is a symbol of American poetry.

Throughout Emily Dickinsonís poetry there are three main themes that she
addresses: death, love, and nature. Another aspect of Emily Dickinsonís work that
fascinates many critics is the importance and the impact of the word in her poetry. In

Donald E. Thackreyís essay The Communication of the Word, he talks about how the
power of the individual word, in particular, seems to have inspired her with nothing less
than reverence (Thackrey 51). Dickinson approached her poetry inductively, that is, she
combined words to arrive at whatever conclusion the patterns of the words suggested,
rather than starting out with a specific theme or message. Instead of purposefully working
toward a final philosophical point, Dickinson preferred to use series of staccato
inspirations (Thackrey 51). Dickinson frequently used words with weight in her work,
and as a result her works usually cannot be grasped fully in one reading without
dissecting each word individually. Often Dickinson would compile large, alternative
word lists for a poetry before she would come to a decision on which word was just
right for the impact she wished to achieve (Thackrey 52). For example, this poem
displays Dickinsonís use of alternative, thesaurus-like lists:

Had but the tale a thrilling, typic,
hearty, bonnie, breathless, spacious,
tropic, warbling, ardent, friendly,
magic, pungent, winning, mellow
teller

All the boys would comeó

Orpheusís sermon captivated,

It did not condemn.

Eventually, Dickinson came to rest on the word warbling, but one can see the
meticulous care that she put into the decision on which word to use. Another poem of

Dickinsonís that shows her compositional method is Shall I Take Thee? the Poet Said.

In this poem, Dickinson discusses from where the power of the world comes.

Shall I take thee? the poet said

To the propounded word.

Be stationed with the candidates

Till I have further tried.

The poet probed philology

And when about to ring

For the suspended candidate,

There came unsummoned in

That portion of the vision

The word applied to fill.

Not unto nomination

The cherubim reveal.

In the preceding poem, one can see the artistic style come through her composition. The
best representation of that particular idea comes from the author Donald Thackrey when
he says," It is significant that the revealed word comes unsummoned in a flash of
intuition....and yet the implication of the poem is that the revealing of the word must be
preceded by the preparatory, conscious, rational effort of probing philology...She
[Dickinson] herself was well aware that inspiration, while all-sufficient when present,
seldom came even to a great poet"(Thackrey 53).Emily regarded the words she used as
living entities that could have being, growth, and immortality (Thackrey 54). This
attitude toward language comes through clearly in the following six-line poem about the
nature of the word.

A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day.

The idea that the word comes from the experience behind it takes precedence over
the notion that a word is wasted when the vocal chords stop moving. Words have
connotations that encompass the entire circumference of the idea in addition to its
denotative worth (Thackrey 54). The complexity