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Special Note:  The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is today recognized as one of America’s greatest writers.  She remained, for the most part, unpublished during her lifetime, due most likely to the insistence of 19th Century publishers that she conform to traditional poetical styles.  (For instance, when her friend Thomas Wentworth Higginson, poetry editor at The Atlantic Monthly, suggested she alter he poetry to improve commercial viability, she declined, citing artistic integrity.)  She shared much of her poetry with friends and family through letters in her own attempt at self-publication, including about 800 hand-written poems that she “bound” with ribbon into some 40 books that she distributed through her correspondence.

In her earliest efforts, Dickinson’s hand-written poems imitated the conventions of print, but in later works she employed techniques that affected the visual aspects of her work. She employed unusual line breaks and unconventional capitalizations, as well as varying sizes of dashes and dots. These visual techniques augmented her mastery of the English language and prosody.

Earliest publications after her death contained highly-edited versions of her poems to conform to conventional standards.  Most notable were the three volumes entitled Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by her friends Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson (the poetry editor of The Atlantic Monthly mentioned above).   Martha Dickinson Bianchi, the poet’s niece, also brought to print several edited editions of Emily’s poetry in the early part of the 20th Century.  The first complete and mostly unaltered collection of Dickinson’s poetry was offered by Thomas H. Johnson with The Poems of Emily Dickinson (3 volumes) in 1955 and, with Theodora Ward, The Letters of Emily Dickinson (3 volumes) in 1958.  In 1981 came the publication of The Manuscript Books of Emily Dickinson (2 volumes) edited by R.W. Franklin.  This volume provided facsimiles of the small books mentioned above that the poet herself had hand-written and bound.  In 1998, Franklin's Variorum Edition consisting of three volumes was released, making it the most informative and scholarly collection of Dickinson's poetry to date.  In 2005  single volume Reading Edition  of Franklin's work was published.

The Dickinson poems presented here are the edited versions from Todd and Higginson published in the years soon after the poet’s death.  These poems are in the public domain, and thus contribute to one of the major goals of this website:  offering a source for wine poems that can be freely distributed by the public and members of the wine industry.  Consider them to be as “watered wine” - offering a pale and thin flavor of this poet’s true genius.  I offer this note as my nod to Emily Dickinson’s quest for artistic integrity and plead that you provide a similar caveat with any Dickinson poems from this website (or any other “edited” Dickinson poetry) that you share.

Some 2000 Emily Dickinson poems have been discovered since her death.  Reliable, unedited versions of her work can be found by following the links on this page, as well as  with the individual wine poems to be found at

The Rhyme Maker
Emily Dickinson 1830-1886
Emily Dickinson

The Complete Poems
of Emily Dickinson

edited by
Thomas H. Johnson

The Poems of Emily Dickinson:
 Reading Edition
R. W. Franklin (Editor)

The Poems of Emily Dickinson
Variorum Edition
  R. W. Franklin (Editor)

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