Emily Dickinson's eternal verses

Emily Dickinson is widely seen as one of America's best 19th-century poets. But only seven of her 1,000-plus poems were published in her lifetime.

She was born in Amherst, Mass., in 1830, attended Amherst Academy, and spent a year at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College). Her work was profoundly shaped, though, by her father's strict religious teachings and her reading - the Bible, hymns, Shakespeare, and the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom she considered a spiritual mentor.

Dickinson questioned traditional faith and often explored the subject of self and its ultimate destiny. She lived a quiet life, but her punctuation and images were bold. She was a master of using - and altering - simple metrical forms like hymns and folk songs.

She corresponded with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a clergyman and author in Cambridge, Mass., for more than 20 years. Higginson believed her work was unpublishable. But after her death in 1886, he helped Emily's sister, Lavinia, publish a collection of 115 poems.

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