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As I was researching notable literary dates in history I came across a writer who I had vaguely heard of but never read or studied, Emily Dickinson. This is probably something that happens to many of us in the past, where we have overlooked a popular author or poet for no reason other than being preoccupied by other reading, and end up wishing you’d read them sooner.

Emily’s poems are not what drew me to her, initially, I hadn’t read any until after I had read about Emily herself: her eccentric nature, introverted and quirky, she seemed like a fascinating anti-heroine in a world that prefers the extroverted and gregarious.

Emily preferred to communicate and maintain friendships through letter writing, feeling more comfortable expressing herself through her writing. I find this hermit-like aspect of her life intriguing, and wonder if the tragedy of losing people close to her had alone caused this introversion and agoraphobia, or if it was always part of her personality anyway.

Due to her mother’s illness she confined herself to the home, taking care of the household duties, leading to her increasing isolation. Emily would keep houseguests at a distance eventually isolating herself in her room, writing her poetry and to her friends, with strong themes of immortality, life, and death.

Her work wasn’t read unedited until after her death and the huge collection of poems were discovered and shared by her sister, and a few centuries later I’m glad I have managed to jump on the bandwagon at last.

In honour of the poet, eccentric, baker, botanist, and loving friend and sister on her birthday, your mission, if you have not done so already, is to have a little explore of Dickinson’s works, and her life story. You may find you’re like me and wish you had read up sooner.

What classic or popular works have you overlooked, only to ‘discover’ them later and feel like the last person in the world to do so?

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