The Relationship Between Dickinson and Higginson Emily Dickinson’s poetry expresses her feelings of love and life which seemed so different then how her life really was. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a literary friend, gave insight into who Emily Dickinson was as a poet from his correspondence through written communication with Miss Dickinson, and a personal meeting at her home in Worcester. Miss Dickinson seemed sincerely interested in Higginson’s opinion of her poetry. She wrote him enclosing four poems for Higginson to comment on.
Higginson illuminated on the unassuming, yet skillful poet and erson, Emily Dickinson was, and the relationship they formed. In his opening paragraph with each letter/communication Higginson describes how Dickinson becomes more open and expresses herself, “. the total absence of a signature, It proved, however, that she had written her name on a card, and put it under the shelter of a smaller envelope enclosed in the larger” she goes on to say, “and even this name was written – as if the shy writer wished to recede as far as possible from view – in pencil, not in ink” (851).
With the second letter Miss Dickinson becomes more intimate, speaking of writing from her pillow, God, family, and other life influences. These to fulfill Higginson’s questions, and signs it “Your friend, E. Dickinson” (853). The third letter begins with “Dear Friend” (854) and is full of intimate or personal reflection. The next she provides a portrait of herself. This is because she has no portrait. And when one reads this letter they must be struck by what seems an almost tragical longing. Each letter is a leap from the last letter.
The reader is offered these personal letters, by Higginson, because they are an insight into who this women from Amherst is. Dickinson sits n her quiet room, in her quiet house, with a big dog for a companion, and writes in unpunctuated form the unpunctuated thoughts, feelings, views, emotions of an unpunctuated life. With all these words and images, the reader must feel the sweet tragic sadness that is Emily Dickinson. Determined and somewhat reckless, Emily Dickinson’s writes Higginson in earnest of his opinion.
She expresses her need for the critique of her poetry in angst , “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive? ” (851). She went on to state that outside opinion is exceedingly important to her because being o close to the words themselves, makes it impossible to see clearly, “My mind is so near itself it cannot see distinctly, and I have none to ask. ” (851). These words help the reader to see Emily Dickinson as someone who was in need of outside opinion, but from someone whom she felt would give her an honesty she desired.
This seems strange that she would need this, but it could be looked at as a way to share her feelings. She must have had some ego or desire for others to think or know that her poetry has value other than for her own personal fulfillment. Higginson comments on the unusual penmanship he had, by comparing it to “famous fossil bird tracks… ” But then went on to say it is not in the “slightest degree illiterate, but cultivated, quaint and wholly unique” (851). She was obviously given an education and exposed to various writers and poets.
Higginson’s most shocking revelation was “the total absence of a signature” (851). Why would someone in need of an opinion not be at all concerned with signing the letter. This need of his response to her poetry, was more important than her name. And to further this, Higginson remarked at the use of a pencil ather than pen. He felt this only furthered his assumption of Miss Dickinson’s desire to withdraw from the outside world and become lost in her words. He described her as a “poetic genius” (852). Though he stated this, he was not sure where she fits in as a poet.
He made note of this when,”after thirty years of further knowledge; and with it comes the problem never yet solved, what place ought to be assigned in literature to what is so remarkable, yet so elusive of criticism” (859). This makes sense in the fact that when looking at who she was as a person he doesn’t seem to fit into the role of the poetry that came out of her. Emily Dickinson was reserved and timid, but unspecific in her ability to write poetry; or so one my think from her appearance. But is this true?
Higginson, gave a description of Emily Dickinson’s physical appearance. One that is not really physical beauty, but beautiful in the manner of how he described her. This physical appearance, this “quaint and nun- like look” (856). Seemed to say great deal about who she was, or, why she was who she was. Physical limitations unlike her poetic(romantic) heart and mind. If she were a strong physically attractive woman, would she have become the poet that she is. One thing that was striking when reading the letters was the growing intimacy on the part of Miss Dickinson.
More so from these letters, then reading the included poems, does the reader see the poet in her. She was immensely aware of the power of her words and the exactness of them. In her secluded life, words and nature as big as herself make up a limited world experience and yet Mr. Higginson says how she could describe in “eight lines a truth so searching that it seems a condensed ummary of the whole experience of a long life” (851). Her letters became more personal with each letter like a relationship develops, slowly. She was a homebody.
This offered her a chance to have a personal conversation with a man she respected, whose opinion and honor she admired. Their correspondence was a brief and intellectual love affair. With this, Higginson realized that though he could edit parts of her poems, it would not of pacified her. This is because he began to understand that the perfect flow of her poetry wasn’t always what one would think of as perfect. One can see this in many kinds of art, nothing can always look or feel a certain way. This was a part of who Emily Dickinson was as poet and person.
Higginson clearly remarks that “it would not of satisfied her to make the change” (854)… In this, Higginson gave a greater understanding of Emily Dickinson’s sometimes confusing and almost annoying placement of words. She thought in verse, but wrote in poetry. You could take the last line and turn it into one of her poems. “When I said, at parting, that I would come again some time, she replied, “Say in a long time; that will be nearer. Some time is no time” (857). Higginson helps us to understand that Dickinson had a wish that others appreciated what she wrote.
He gave us an understanding that Dickinson thinks as a poet. That her life and lifestyle were essential to HER poetry and that she wanted to live in a world bigger than the one she lived in. Say in a long time That will be nearer Some time Is no time She was completely into the form but had self-doubt, that bit of anxiety that drove her to do more and to be better. Emily Dickinson really sought Mr. Higginson’s criticism, which was bold on her part. By looking for some approval, it showed that she had some ego for her poems.
She wanted others to see, feel and understand. Poetry can be a struggle. Words are more direct. One can play at the idea of poetry, you can even claim to be a poet, but that would only make a person seem kind of ridiculous. It would seem that Miss Dickinson WAS poetry, if you can say that. Her existence is and was defined by poetry. She seemed like someone who wanted nothing more than to love and be loved, romantically. Not having that possibility, she existed in a world of poetry, and that was her love but seemed so lonely.