The Poems of Emily Dickinson


Facilitator: Mac McNeill, 377-2012, mcneil0115@comcast.net                                       Dates: Thursdays, March 26 - May 14, 2015 (8 weeks) Time: 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Text: The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition,
no presentation required


Emily Dickinson wrote almost 1,800 poems. Only 12 were published during her lifetime and it wasn’t until after her death that it became apparent that she was a great poet. Today, she is ranked in the top three of American poets, right up there with Frost and Whitman.


Dickinson wrote about simple, everyday things, like love, suffering, nature, death, and poetry. But, if her topics are simple, her writing can be confusing. Her use of the dash as punctuation, her seemingly random capitalization of words, and the intentional omission of words, can make understanding difficult, though it adds to the richness of her work. Thomas Higginson was the first expert to read Dickinson’s work. After her death, he was asked about her strange writing techniques, so different from her contemporaries. He said, “When a thought takes one's breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence.”


Over eight weeks, we will read and discuss 50 or so of Dickinson’s best poems, working as a class to overcome any difficulties. No presentations will be required. Participants will have to buy the book The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Reading Edition so we are all working from the same text (paperback around $16), and will be expected to have read any short biography of her before class begins.


Join us as we read the works of the poet who gave us lines like: “I Dwell in Possibility;” “Forever is composed of Nows;” “This is the Hour of Lead;” and “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”