Emily Dickinson's Hidden Poems

To demonstrate the difference between plain-speech resonance styles and more formal, classical styles of poetry, I like to compare Emily Dickinson's official poetry with what I call her "hidden" poems: poetic passages I have culled from her correspondence.  Her poems were written in the persona of someone who no doubt imagined them appearing somewhere in print in some imaginary book of serious poetry - then hidden under her bed.  Her letters were written and sent to real people in her serioius attempt to communicate with them at various levels of conversational intimacy.  The hidden poems "resonated" with "plain-speech."  This isn't to intimate that they are superior to her formal poetry (I truly admire her formal poetry), only to illustrate the difference.

You can read some of the hidden poems by clicking here.

You can contrast them with her more formal poetry by clicking here.  To confuse things a bit, let me note that this isn't to say that all of her poetry lacks a plain-speech nexus.  There is a plain-speech, sometimes primitive simplicity to her trademark complexity. Indeed numerous poems can be defended as entirely within the plain-speech resonance category (for example: "I Shall Keep Singing."  But usually, her meters are more metronomed, and her rhymes stick tighter as if to call attention to their intention as poetry, and her word-play often seems more formally calculated to dazzle.

Shortly after I'd completed my own informal collection of "hidden" poems from the correspondence, William Shurr's book: "New Poems of Emily Dickinson" was published (1993).  If you consult it, you'll see that he culled from the same correspondence sources.  The significant difference is that Shurr held much more strictly to the standards of measured meters common to the time at which Emily wrote.  My parameters were geared to modern rhythms.  This meant, in my opinion, that a lot of what he gathered tended to be more formal and stilted than what my search yielded.  He and I engaged in a short correspondence that ended without consensus.