Emily Dickinson: Poet-Gardener
Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 and lived all of her 56 years in Amherst, Massachusetts where, she was celebrated more as a gardener than a poet. Gardening in mid-Victorian times was thought to be a more appropriate activity for a woman.
In her book “The Gardens of Emily Dickinson” (Harvard University Press, 2004), Judith Farr explains how Emily’s hands-on-horticultural knowledge influenced her writing so profoundly. She frequently referred to herself and loved ones using flower names; flower images and garden themes were used to explore her emotional reality.
She described heaven as a “garden we have not seen” and her poems as “blossoms of the brain.” As a gardener, she understood that without the chill of winter, some perennial plants cannot produce new growth. Bleak times in human lives, like winter in a garden, however, may be a prelude to growth and new beginnings.
For Emily, winter had a masculine persona and a stony aspect, but she also felt the promise of relief when she wrote these lines about her winter:
“Generic as a
And hearty – as
A rose –
When he goes”