Poetic Quotes by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) lived in Amherst, Massachusetts where she studied at Amherst Academy with her siblings and wrote 1,800 poems over the course of her lifetime. Here we’ll enjoy a selection of poetic quotes by Emily Dickinson, most being beautiful isolated lines from her poems.

It was during the Civil War years that Emily developed her identity as a poet. She sent some of her poems to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a noted literary figure. His critique of her unorthodox style seemed to discourage her, and she retreated to the habit of keeping her writing private. Nevertheless, she continued to write copiously.

In The Penguin Companion to American Literature (1971), Eric Mottram offered this assessment of her poetic practices:

“She hoarded her poems, among them love poems, apparently addressed to Benjamin Newton, a student in her father’s office, with whom she corresponded until his death in 1853, and Charles Wadsworth, a distinguished married clergyman who may have left America because of her.

… ‘Pardon my sanity in a world insane,’ she wrote in a letter, a clue to her need to create a balanced life out of her passion and intellectual clarity.

In 1863 she probably wrote about 140 poems, and in 1864 nearly 200, the high point of her prolific output of about 1,775 poems, all written within the characteristic late 19th-century range of relationships between God, man, and nature. Since she did not have the pressures of publication, her style is remarkably free, intense, and idiosyncratic, the exact form of her complex personality.

Her weakness is a reliance on rhythmic cadences and meters from hymns and popular jingles. She was not a prosodic innovator, although her punctuation, derived from reading and pronunciation handbooks, looks odd.

And her imagery continually startles with its freshness and penetration. Her modernity is her articulation of psychological experience and skeptical desire for faith.”

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“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?” 

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“Forever is composed of nows.”

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“’Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul – “

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“A wounded deer leaps the highest.”

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“A word is dead when it’s been said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.” 

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Emily Dickinson stamp US

10 Well-Loved Poems by Emily Dickinson

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“PHOSPHORESCENCE. Now there’s a word to lift your hat to … to find that phosphorescence, that light within, that’s the genius behind poetry.”

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“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotion know what it means to want to escape from these.”

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“But a book is only the heart’s portrait —  every page a pulse.”

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“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

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Emily Dickinson quote

Learn more about Emily Dickinson

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“Where thou art, that is home..”

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“Love is like life merely longer.”

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“Dwell in possibility.”

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“‘Tis not that dying hurts us so — ’tis living hurts us more.”

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“Morning without you is a dwindled dawn.”

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“Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.”

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“Whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon.”

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“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.”

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“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”

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Emily Dickinson books

Emily Dickinson on Bookshop.org*
Emily Dickinson page on Amazon*
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