The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has re-created one of the main inspirations behind poet Emily Dickinson's work: her garden. Through careful research into Dickinson's personal history and poetry, scholars and gardeners have duplicated what they believe her garden must have looked like while she was writing.
Many of Dickinson's writings used the flowers, birds and insects she observed in her garden as vehicles to reflect on death, which was a constant presence in her life. Alice Quinn, the Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America, says that many of Dickinson's cousins passed away at young ages from fevers and other illnesses, and Dickinson witnessed many funerals as a result.
Dickinson also used bees as metaphors for how brief fame can be for poets and artists. Dickinson was not known for her poetry during her lifetime, and was seemingly content with that: she wrote, "How happy is the little stone that rambles in the road alone, and doesn't care about careers and exigencies never fears." That poem will soon be posted on New York City buses.
"From a very early time, she was very conscious of death. A number of her cousins and young friends died of fevers. And, in fact, a poet friend of mine says of Dickinson that funerals were her TV, you know, that she would look from her window to watch the funeral cortege, and then she would get a glimpse of the whole village." - Alice Quinn, Executive Director, Poetry Society of America
"She really was a poet second and a gardener first. She got her knowledge of nature and her passion for nature, which informed her poetry, through working every day in her own garden in Amherst, Massachusetts." - Todd Forrest, vice president for horticulture, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, New York Botanical Garden
1. What is a poem?
2. What famous poets can you name?
3. What do you know about Emily Dickinson?
1. Why do you think the Poetry Society wants to post a poem on city buses? What message do you think that poem is meant to send to riders?
2. Do you think re-creating the environment a poet wrote in can help scholars understand his or her poems better? Why or why not?
3. What did you learn about Emily Dickinson from this video? Are there ways you can relate to her?