Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. The daughter of a state legislator and congressman, Dickinson grew up in a conservative, puritanical community. She attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, returning home after only one year due to extreme homesickness. She spent much of her adult life in seclusion from the outside world, resulting in a lonely and morbid tone throughout much of her poetry. Despite her reclusiveness, Dickinson maintained contact with the outside world, often through written correspondence. Although she wrote prolifically during her lifetime, her poetry went largely undiscovered and unpublished until after her death in 1886; her first volume of poetry was published in November of 1890.
Sometimes referred to as a transcendentalist, Dickinson’s work defies any one genre. Her themes are varied, focusing chiefly on nature, religion, illness, death, and dying. Her poems often employ unconventional punctuation and capitalization, and generally feature short lines and near rhyme. Although she received little recognition during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson is highly regarded today as one of the foremost American poets.