My fascination with Emily Dickinson, one of America’s greatest poetess.

5 min readMar 23, 2020

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

~Emily Dickinson

I was first introduced to the poems of Emily Dickinson through a book that I picked up from one of the regional public libraries in Singapore (either Tampines or Marine Parade branch, I cannot really remember). The book was titled Interrupted: Life Beyond Words. Gauging from the year that this book was published (2012), I probably came across this book in the year 2012 or 2013.

Even though the story plot of this book is very simple and written by then, only 16 years old Rachel Coker, it appealed to me in many ways. The simple and easy to understand vocabulary, soothing descriptions of the landscapes coupled with slight hints of romance in the book made it an enjoyable read. To find out what the book is about:

This book still remains as one of my favourites today. Throughout the story, the main character named Alcyone, Allie for short, dives deep into her emotions and expresses them by reciting poems written by Emily Dickinson and even crafting her own. Poetry was the one thing that connected her to her own mother who had unfortunately passed away when she was very young. Alcyone constantly reminisces about the past and struggles to comprehend the lemons that life throws her. Growing up as an adopted child and during the uncertain times in the pre-war years, Alcyone’s love for poetry grounded her and provided stabilisation to her life.

After reading this book, I myself developed a small interest in trying to understand poetry. As someone who does not have much experience in the field of English Literature, poems have all along been somewhat of a mystery to me. Whether it was Chinese classical Tang poems or English William Wordsworth poems, I have always felt that it was a pity that I did not possess enough literacy to truly interpret them independently. To me, poems are beautifully written verses that seek to convey deep philosophical meanings which I, unfortunately, cannot comprehend fully without the help of Google Search.

However, my incapabilities did not deter me from trying to research the poems published by Emily Dickinson. My obsession with Alcyone and curiosity in understanding how poetry can inspire or give strength to individuals have spurred my desire for understanding poetry. It has been around 8 years since I read the book and from time to time, I still find myself thinking of this book and making small efforts to read poems written by Emily Dickinson. However, I would like to make a disclaimer that I do not do these for leisure very frequently. I guess, my schedule is often packed with completing school assignments and studying for tests and exams that my limited free time is far and few. Regardless, I have come to gain a deeper understanding of some of the poems written by Emily Dickinson and even attempted to write some of my own in the year 2015 after my O’ Levels (even though it was just a short-lived hobby).

To my delight, I also found out that just recently in September 2019, a half-hour comedy series based on Emily Dickinson has been published on the Apple TV. It is titled Dickinson and stars Oscar® nominee Hailee Steinfeld. In the series, Dickinson audaciously explores the constraints of society, gender, and family from the perspective of rebellious young poet Emily Dickinson. I watched the trailer and felt that it was a cool production with a modern twist to that time period Emily grew up in. It reignited my interest with Emily Dickinson again and is the reason why I decided to pen this post.

Dickinson Trailer

I would like to end off by sharing some of my favourite poems written by Emily Dickinson below. (Sorry that I cannot provide my own personal interpretations because this would involve plagiarism lol…. but I am sure you can find lots of tutorials online)

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

I measure every Grief I meet

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain –

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether — could They choose between –
It would not be — to die –

I note that Some — gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –

I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands — on the Harm –
That hurt them early — such a lapse
Could give them any Balm –

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love –

The Grieved — are many — I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death — is but one — and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –

There’s Grief of Want — and grief of Cold –
A sort they call “Despair” –
There’s Banishment from native Eyes –
In sight of Native Air –

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly — yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary –

To note the fashions — of the Cross –
And how they’re mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some — are like my own –




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