What is "This Is My Letter to the World" by Emily Dickinson about?


Quick Answer

Emily Dickinson’s poem “This Is My Letter to the World” is about the need of writers to write. The speaker in the poem, a figure similar to Dickinson herself, must be heard in a larger context, even though she states that the world “never wrote to me.”

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Full Answer

Thought to have been written in 1862, “This Is My Letter to the World” demonstrates one of Dickinson’s major influences, American Romanticism, which often invokes and personifies nature. The poem does so directly, with the poem’s speaker attempting to explain her calling to write as part of nature’s greater plan. She writes, whether well or badly, because she must. Because Dickinson was a devout Christian, it’s not surprising that her poetry, while clearly a product of the Romantic movement, takes on a religious tone and recalls more traditional religious views.

Part of the American Renaissance, Dickinson was familiar with works of her contemporaries, Emerson, Hawthorne and Whitman, who rejected rationalism in favor of the natural. However, Dickinson’s reference to “hands I cannot see” is more classical and mystical, and clearly drawn from the British romantic tradition. Further, the poet is obviously still an apprentice. In particular, the invocation to her “sweet countryman” is hammered.

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