American poet Emily Dickinson is perhaps less known for her love of flowers than for her writings. Born to a wealthy family in Massachusetts in 1830, she quickly became eccentric and reclusive. Her poetry was mostly viewed unfavorably during her lifetime, and in fact, it could be argued that in her day she was better known for her gardens. In the 1950's, the bulk of her poetry was published by scholar Thomas Johnson, and her place in American literary circles was firmly anchored. Flowers of all sorts appear in many of her poems.
The New York Botanical Garden recently held a flower show recently in their beautiful Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Based on extensive research, the NYBG created a superb display including her favorite flowers, such as daylilies, tulips, roses and jasmine, to name just a few. Victorian-era gardens overflowed, and these surroundings are what inspired a great deal of her poetry. Her first published book of poetry even featured flowers on the cover.
Also at the NYBG, there were representations of both Emily's and her brother's home, which were on the same property in Amherst, Massachusetts. Adding a whimsical note was a re-creation of the woodland pathway, which Emily wrote was "just wide enough for two who love." How charming!
During her lifetime, Dickinson kept an extensive leather-bound book filled with floral pressings. Though she kept no flower diaries as such, researchers have easily recreated what her garden would have looked like in her day.
Many of Dickinson's poems were untitled, but here is one about my favorite flower:
A sepal, petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer morn
A flash of dew, a bee or two,
A caper in the trees,
And I am a rose!
If you would like to know more about Emily Dickinson's gardens', check out these two recent publications on the subject: "Emily Dickinson's Gardens" and "The Gardens of Emily Dickinson".
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