In the past few days and weeks, I’ve been posting tables and charts with visual representations of word use in Dickinson’s poems. You can see the fruits of my labor HERE.
Can these charts and tables reveal anything about the poet?
For example, when writing about various living things, Dickinson used the word “creature” in 35 different poems, and she used the word “animal” in only one (she even used the word “beast” in two poems).
Dickinson’s poems that mention “summer” (103 poems) outnumber the combined total of poems where she wrote of the other three seasons (68 poems). Interestingly enough, though, she used "cold" terminology more frequently than words of "warmth" (“cool,” “cold,” and “frozen” were used in 53 different poems; “hot,” “warm,” and “warmth” were used in a total of 31 poems).
I’ll admit, I having fun doing this. I find it interesting to discover that Dickinson made many more references to music than she did to art which outnumbered mentions of writing and poetry. I find it curious that she used the word “frog” more often than “deer” or “fox” – and that the common house fly appeared in more poems than “frog,” “deer” and “fox” combined.
In tribute to my investigations of Dickinson's word choice, I have posted Emmett Lee Dickinson's "I count the words to every poem," below on the left. Dickinson's poem inspired third cousin Emily to pen her poem "I found the words to every thought," below on the right.
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
I count the words to every poem
She ever put – to Pen –
And that – absorbs me –
As her Hand did set to write the Poems
And Letters – nurtured at her Desk –
How would the next – begin?
Can Sense be shown in all the Counts –
And Then -- what does it Mean?
By Emily Dickinson:
I found the words to every thought
I ever had – but One –
And that – defies me –
As a Hand did try to chalk the Sun
To Races – nurtured in the Dark –
How would your own – begin?
Can Blaze be shown in Cochineal –
Or Noon – in Mazarin?
Just yesterday, my wife said that I could be raking the yard or loading the dishwasher or putting away the laundry instead of analyzing the poetry of Emily Dickinson. She said I was being too dedicated to my work. Okay, okay -- she didn't say that. She said I was being too anal. :-D Then she posed a most preposterous question: "Do you think there are even eight people on this earth who care about that stuff?"
I told her that, yes, I thought there were eight people on earth who cared -- and I told her I would try to find those eight people.
That's when she said, "Well, up the number to twelve if you count those people at the museum." She was referring to the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA, and not the Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum in Washerst (pronounced "WAS-herst"), PA.
Anyway, if you're one of the eight (or twelve) people on this earth who care, please comment below or tweet to me on Twitter. My Twitter name is @The_Dickinson.