Born: 10 December 1830
Died: 15 May 1886
Birthplace: Amherst, Massachusetts
Best known as: The poet called "The Belle of Amherst"
Emily Dickinson lived quietly in Amherst, Massachusetts and wrote poetry for most of her adult life. Her verses were short but inventive, and her themes universal: love, death, and her relationship with God and nature. Dickinson was not famous during her lifetime; she rarely left Amherst and according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "after the late 1860s [she] never left the boundaries of the family's property." Dickinson's output was prodigious -- over 1,700 poems in all -- but only a handful of her poems were published during her lifetime. Her sister Lavinia actively promoted her work after Emily's death in 1886. Poems of Emily Dickinson was published in 1890, and other new editions of her work appeared over the following decades. Once published, Dickinson's words found a worldwide audience, and she is now considered one of America's finest 19th-century poets. Among her best-known poems are "Because I could not stop for Death" and "I cannot live with You."
Extra credit: Famous Dickinson phrases include "It is better to be the hammer than the anvil" and "Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune--without the words / And never stops at all"... The Belle of Amherst, a play about Dickinson, debuted on Broadway in 1976. The play was written by William Luce; the title came from a phrase Dickinson once used to describe herself. The Broadway production was directed by Charles Nelson Reilly and won a Tony Award for actress Julie Harris, who played Dickinson.
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