Best Emily Dickinson Poems To Read During Quarantine

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Emily Dickinson is a poet known for her reclusive lifestyle. Because the COVID-19 pandemic forced us into relative seclusion, we can relate to Emily Dickinson poems now more than ever.

Dickinson is a 19th-century baddie who forged her own path despite societal pressures to become a wife and mother and nothing else. She was formally educated, had a mind for literature and science, and was in love with her brother’s wife — heartbreaking, I know. She used her wit and intellect to do as she pleased and tell everyone to get out of her way.  

What kind of poems did Emily Dickinson write?

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Dickinson knows what it’s like to want to be out in the world while unable to venture out there. In Dickinson’s poetry, we can find solace in her own experiences as well as in the way she challenges her depressive thoughts. Her poetry is clear while still leaving room for interpretation and projection of our own experiences.

Dickinson has poems with playful tones, introspective tones, and sometimes depressive tones. No matter your mood, there is a Dickinson poem ready to help you think and feel in new dimensions.

Emily Dickinson Poems to Read During Quarantine

Her agony over her isolation is easily translated into the woes commonly felt during coronavirus quarantine. Dickinson’s hope for freedom from her numerous metaphorical prisons can give us hope for freedom from ours. And she can teach us so much about the limitlessness of our minds. It is our minds that will free us. 

1. There is another sky

In this poem, Dickinson writes about hope for the future.

Although her days are mundane and lonely, although her brother faces many stressors in the outside world, although this pandemic has stretched much further than we anticipated, there is another day, another place, another sky.

“Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields — 
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is evergreen;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;”

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2. On this wondrous sea

Dickinson writes often about the sea because of how vast it is compared to the confines of her house. The sea is a dreamscape for her mind to stretch the expanses of the earth where her feet will not take her.

This poem takes us on a journey with her from our own sofas and beds to the serenity and wonder of the seas.

“In the peaceful west
Many the sails at rest —
The anchors fast —
Thither I pilot thee —”

3. I have a Bird in Spring

Outside her window, Dickinson observes the changing of the seasons and relates them to the changes she sees in the world and the people around her. Despite her family leading active lives and traveling away from the hometown that she never leaves, Dickinson knows that they will return someday.

Everything happens in cycles; what goes down must come back up.

“In a serener Bright,
In a more golden light
I see
Each little doubt and fear,
Each little discord here
Removed.”

4. The morns are meeker than they were —

Nature is used as a character in many of Dickinson’s poems. In nature, she finds tranquility, spirituality, and exploration.

In this poem, Dickinson marvels at nature’s beauty and concludes that she must get dressed up so as not to feel underdressed in the company of the Massachusetts woods.

When looking for peace, self–care, or creative inspiration turn to nature, or better yet, Dickinson!

“The Maple wears a gayer scarf —
The field a scarlet gown —
Lest I should be old fashioned
I’ll put a trinket on.”

5. The Soul unto itself

When spending so much time with ourselves, we can become our own best friend or worst enemy. Dickinson encourages us to find the wonder and appreciation for our minds and souls.

“Secure against its own —
No treason it can fear —
Itself — its Sovereign — of itself
The Soul should stand in Awe —”

6. I never lost as much but twice

It’s pretty annoying that the second wave of coronavirus is imminent. But it’s okay, Dickinson understands. She may not be talking about quarantine as we know it today — though her whole life was basically a quarantine — but this poem definitely applies to the current state of the COVID crisis.

“Angels — twice descending
Reimbursed my store —
Burglar! Banker — Father!
I am poor once more!”

7. I often passed the village

Read this one before the walks you take to ward off cabin fever. Dickinson paints a quiet, still scene of a “village” one that she passed by many times before.

Walking through the neighborhood during a quarantine is eerie, yet calm. Bustling cities become ghost towns.

“It’s stiller than the sundown.
It’s cooler than the dawn —”

8. So from the mould

This poem is watching the exciting bloom of spring! Life rises from the dead again, and although it doesn’t always seem so, this pandemic will come to an eventual end. The emotions that Dickinson brings up here is how I imagine it will feel when the time comes.

“So from the mould
Scarlet and Gold
Many a Bulb will rise —”

9. Success is counted sweetest

As much as this pandemic sucks (and it really sucks), this is a time that will create collective change in the world. We had to adapt quickly to the circumstances of a global pandemic, and even when public health is under control, life is going to be different.

Dickinson reminds us that success and well–being hits different after adversity.

“To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.”

10. I never hear the word “escape”

This poem lets you feel your feelings about being quarantined. You know it’s for the good of your health, the good of your loved ones’ health, the good of the entire world’s health, but you’re still allowed to feel those less than pleasant feelings about it.

“But I tug childish at my bars
Only to fail again!”

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11. Will there really be a “Morning”

In this poem, Dickinson is waiting for a new change to come. She feels stuck in her secluded life and is looking for something to inspire her.

Inspiration can sometimes feel lost in quarantine, but it is also the perfect opportunity to do some self–growth.

“Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Men from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called ‘Morning’ lies!”

12. In this short Life

In this short poem, Dickinson contemplates her agency over her life. Quarantine is a perfect time for introspection and this poem — as well as the others on this list — provokes the mind to do such work.

“How much — how little — is
Within our power”

13. Much Madness is divinest Sense

In quarantine, it is easy to start to feel a little crazy. But, as Dickinson points out, those spells of madness can create clarity.

“Much Madness is divinest Sense
To a discerning Eye — 
Much Sense — the starkest Madness —
‘Tis the Majority”

14. There’s a certain Slant of light

In stillness, ordinary objects and sights take on a new meaning. They can remind us of past people, feelings, and events and provide new insights.

Dickinson reflects upon her beliefs and emotions by staring at light coming in through a window:

“Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the meanings, are —”

15. They shut me up in Prose

Dickinson uses this poem as an outlet for her anger at the patriarchy. She doesn’t want to be told who to be or what to do, and neither do you! Use this quarantine to craft a master plan for equality!

“They put me in the Closet —
Because they liked me ‘still’ —
Still! Could themself have peeped —
And seen my Brain — go round —”

16. The Brain — is wider than the Sky —

Even though we can’t go to many places in the current condition of the country, imagination is limitless. Dickinson chose to seclude herself, but her wanderlust is not lost. When you’re feeling stir-crazy, search for the places in your mind that you have never gone before.

“The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain”

17. I think to Live — may be a Bliss

Despite her reclusive life, Dickinson writes about seizing the day. She does as she pleases and is her own person no matter the societal pressures put upon her to be somebody else.

When quarantine drains the life out of you, remember reclusive Dickinson and her lively drive.

“I think to Live — may be a Bliss
To those who dare to try —”

18. A Prison gets to be a friend —

The prison that Dickinson speaks about in this poem can allude to the prison of being trapped at home or to the prison of society. This poem is empathetic to the feeling that there is nothing that can be done without destroying hope for a better tomorrow.

“We learn to know the Planks —
That answer to Our feet —
So miserable a sound — at first —
Nor ever now — so sweet —”

19. Could I but ride indefinite

There was no stay–at–home order or Disney villain that shut Dickinson away in seclusion, but in her lonely home, she dreams of globetrotting. This poem is good for dreaming of the day when the world reopens.

“And flirt all Day with Buttercups
And marry whom I may
And dwell a little everywhere
Or better, run away”

20. A Thought went up my mind today

Ruminating thoughts are too easy to sink into during quarantine, but this poem reminds us of mindfulness. Dickinson lets the thought enter her mind without judgment then she lets it go, like watching a leaf on a stream. 

“But somewhere — in my Soul — I know
I’ve met the Thing before —
It just reminded me — ‘twas all —
And came my way no more —”

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Colleen Fogarty is a writer who covers self-care, astrology, and relationship topics.