My wife and I started reading Prisoners of Geography last night. In the introduction to the book, author Tim Marshall reported, "Overall there is no one geographical factor that is more important than any other. Mountains are no more important than deserts, nor rivers than jungles."
Of course, that got me a-wonderin': Are there geographical factors that are more important in the poetry of Emily Dickinson?
To look into this, I went immediately to the online archive of Dickinson's poetry (HERE) and researched the number of poems written by the poet that used the following words:
2. Hill -- since in Dickinson's poetry, "hill" often denotes a mountain.
6 Ocean -- since ocean is synonymous with sea, and both seas & oceans are natural geographical boundaries.
How did I gather my data? I followed these steps:
1. At the Dickinson archive, I ran a search on a specific term -- like "mountain," which had 63 entries.
2. I then copied all of the entries and pasted them into a spreadsheet.
3. Once I had all of the entries on my spread sheet, I sorted the sheet by the "First Line/Title" column.
4. At that point I deleted titles that were duplicated on the spreadsheet -- and then I calculated the new total of poems.
Once I had my totals, I also took one additional step: I conducted the "search within these results." For example, after I ran a search for "hill," I searched "within these results" to see if any of the poems also included the word "mountain" There was one (see below).
Interestingly, though, when I ran a similar search -- for the word "hill" within my search for "mountain" -- no poems were found (when the poem cited above, "Sweet mountains - ye tell me no lie" does, in fact, include both "mountain" and "hill").
So are there geographical factors that are more important in the poetry of Emily Dickinson? Here are my results:
Mountain & Hill
Hill: 164 entries representing 66 poems.
One poem (mentioned above) included both "mountain" and "hill," so the total number equals 88 poems.
Sea & Ocean
Ocean: 25 entries representing 9 poems.
One poem, "The drop that wrestles in the sea," contains both words "sea" and "ocean," so the total number of poems equals 118.
Below: Pie charts for "number of entries in the archive" and "number of poems" are almost identical. I wasn't surprised at all with the results for "jungle" (zero uses) and "desert," but I was surprised at the low usage of the word "river" (which was used even fewer times than "desert").
Of course, numbers for "river" would increase if I were to check on the usage of "stream" or "brook" too, but I didn't check those words since streams and brooks are not generally used as geographic borders for nations.
Below is the same information as above. However, I separated out the data for "mountain" vs. "hill" and for "ocean" vs. "sea."
The first lines of all of the poems that use the terms river, desert, mountain, hill, ocean and sea are in Part 3 of this post, HERE.