Celebrate “a little madness in the spring” with Emily Dickinson

Poet Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) mined the landscape (or, as she put it, “robbed the woods”[1]) surrounding her Amherst, Massachusetts, home for symbols and metaphors.  Her intense relationship with the natural world necessarily included the seasons.  Spring, for Dickinson, is a precious time (“A Light exists in spring / Not present on the Year / At any other period”), made all the more so for its elusiveness (“Without the Formula of sound / It passes away and we stay — A quality of loss / Affecting our Content[2]). But, for the month or two of its brief visit, the spring brings both rejoicing (the bluebird “shouts for joy to nobody / but his seraphic self![3]) and religious communion (“None stir abroad / Without a cordial interview / with God”[4]).

It is fitting that a celebration of Emily Dickinson’s work will take place in the season that held such meaning for her.  On 13 April, the University of Buffalo will celebrate National Poetry Month with a fourteen-hour marathon reading of all 1,789 of Dickinson’s poems.

If making the trek to Buffalo is out of the question, Dickinson fans can explore her life and works by reading some of our past essays on the poet. In The Incidental Dickinson from our September 1999 issue, Mary Loeffelholz provides insight into the editorial challenges of and approaches to collecting and analyzing Dickinson’s work. Susan VanZanten, in the September 2012 piece “Bridges Often Go”: Emily Dickinson’s Bridge Poems, looks at Dickinson’s use of the image of the bridge in her work.


Amherst College has recently digitized its collection of Emily Dickinson’s works and papers. The links to Dickinson’s original handwritten poems are provided when available (log in as “guest”).

Title: F1356, l. 1

[1] F57, l. 1 

[2] F962, ll. 1–3, 15–18

[3] F1484, 15–16

[4] F948, 6–8

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About Anna K Williams

Editorial Assistant for The New England Quarterly
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