One of the celebrated American poets, Emily Dickinson introduced varied moods, unconventional ideas, spirituality, and realism in most of her poems. The poems given below have been ranked among the best poems of Emily Dickinson based on their thematic strands, literary devices, poetic language, and musicality.
It was published way back in 1859. This short and concise poem of Emily Dickinson has mesmerized her readers and lovers alike on account of the paradoxical ideas she has yoked together. That is why the poem is often ranked first due to the reality, universality, and pragmatism of these unconventional ideas. Even Joyce Carol Oates has immensely praised Emily for this poem as she has called success the sweetest fruit of one’s toil. She has used beautiful similes, metaphors and even paradoxes to bring the readers to her point that success won through hard and tough struggle is the sweetest. Some of its interesting phrases are “clear of Victory” and “distant strains of triumph”. Some popular lines are as follows.
- Success is Counted Sweetest / By those who ne’er succeed.
- As he defeated – dying – On whose forbidden ear / The distant strains of triumph / Burst agonized and clear.
I’m Nobody! Who Are You?
This poem was published two years after the “Success…”. This poem is also very short, comprising just two stanzas with each having four verses. However, the impact it leaves on the readers is powerful as well as forceful. It is powerful because of the negation that the poet has herself demonstrated. Her advice to the second person that both should negate their existences means a lot to others. Her intellectual cynicism is at t peak in the last stanza where she explicitly states that the people becoming egoists are like frogs. The use of short phrases “I’m Nobody”, unconventional stress through capitalization, use of appropriate punctuation, and simile have made this poem to be mentioned among her best poems on the list. Some of its popular lines are as follows.
- I’m Nobody! Who are you?
- How dreary – to be – Somebody!
- To tell one’s name – the livelong June.
Among her short and eye-catching poems, “Hope” Is The Thing With Feathers” is ranked one of the best and most famous among Dickinson’s poems. The personification of Hope is unique in that Dickinson has presented it as a bird with feathers, singing an unstoppable tune that makes a person feel affable and comfortable. Within three quatrains, she has beautifully presented this bird of Hope with her personal touch that she has heard even in the darkest moments of her life. This metaphorical personification is unique in that she herself involves in its soothing operations and comforting impacts. The poem presents memorable phrases such as “tune without words”, “in the chillest land” and “on the strangest Sea.” The popular verses of the poem are as follows.
- “Hope” is the thing that feathers –
- And sore must be the storm — / That could abash the little bird.
- I’ve heard it in the chillest land.
I Felt A Funeral, In My Brain
This poem appeared during the creatively established period of Emily Dickinson in 1861. The poem has a total of five quatrains or four-lined stanzas. This poem presents a picturization of a funeral process in Dickinson’s mind. She beautifully presents a funeral saying that mourners are going to and fro with drums beating and her body going down after a plank of the box breaks down. This picturization of her own funeral in her mind has made this poem unique in that she has freely used funeral images to present her psychological condition. The beauty of the poem lies in the cryptic atmosphere that these images have created combined with a cacophony of different jarring sounds. Some of the memorable lines of the poem are as follows.
- I felt a Funeral, in my Brain.
- My Mind was going numb.
- Then space – began to toll.
- And I dropped down – and down.
This poem also appeared when Emily Dickinson was already well-known. It was published in 1861. This short and concise poetic output presents the psychological state of mind of the poet. It shows how emotions impact a person’s mental state. The images of light and darkness show her religiosity about life and death. The major difference it makes is the meanings from sensory perceptions. That is why the poem is placed as Emily Dickinson’s best poem on this list. Among four quatrains, the popular verses from this poem are as follows.
- There’s a Certain Slant of Light.
- Heavenly Hurt, it gives us.
- An imperial affliction / Sent us of the Air.
- On the look of Death.
Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
This three-stanzas poem with only 43 words shows the astounding creativity of Dickinson as it was recognized in 1861. True to her reputation, the poem also presents unconventional thematic strands, placing the poem among the best of Dickinson’s poems. The poem apostrophically calls Wild Nights, Winds, and Sea to play their role. All of them have been personified as first Dickinson calls Wild Nights saying that she feels luxurious with them, then calls on the Winds to say that she is in tune with them, and then states that she seems to be rowing in the Sea of Eden. This poem also shows her favorite theme of death and eternity in oblique terms. The most memorable lines of this poem are as follows.
- Wild Nights should be / Our luxury!
- Done with the Compass — / Done with the Chart!
- Rowing in Eden.
This short poem having just three stanzas was published during the creative period of Dickinson. She, always, had written with an unconventional theme of the world and her existence in it. That is why this poem has been included among her best poems. The poem shows the use of paradox as she states that she is writing to the world that has never cared about her and yet she states that his countrymen have kept her in their love. This paradox shows her sense of isolation. Both stanzas show her personality separated from the world outside of her. Although capitalization has played its part in making the poem forceful, it seems quite simple. The most memorable lines of this poem are as follows.
- That never wrote to me / The simple News that Nature told / With tender Majesty.
- Her Message is committed.
- Judge tenderly – of Me.
Published in 1860, this short poem by Emily Dickinson, too, comprises just three stanzas. Yet it is unique in its own way, comprising innovative nuances of architectural jargon. Dickinson has used different words of architecture to describe her state of mind. However, her cryptic remarks about this construction of “Possibility” as having numerous doors have made this among her best poems. This metaphor continues until the end when it dawns upon the readers that this is the journey of life toward eternity – that is Paradise, a leap of faith in Dickinson. Some of the memorable verses of this poem are as follows.
- I dwell in Possibility / A faire House than Prose.
- And of an Everlasting Roof / The Gambrles of the Sky.
- Of Visitors – the fairest — .
I Heard A Fly Buzz – When I Died
This short poem has just four stanzas and also appeared in 1862. However, it made a buzz due to the conventional theme of death told and described unconventionally. The poet has used caustic wit regarding her death, showing her dead body going through the turmoil of death. Her dimming vision has been equated with the buzzing of a fly ironing out her will. The uniqueness of the poem lies in her detachment from her own body as if she is able to see herself flying toward Heaven. The use of repetitions, unique phrases, crispy verses, different metaphors, and images of color and sound makes this poem one of her best works. Some of the popular verses of this poem are as follows.
- The Stillness in the Room / Was like the Stillness in the Air –.
- And Breathers were gathering firm.
- I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away.
- I could not see to see.
It Was Not Death, For I Stood Up
It is just a coincidence that Dickinson had written all of her death-themed poems during the peak of her career as a poet, in the 1860s and this poem was published in 1862. It, too, is related to the theme of death. Although she has expressed hope and its impacts in other poems related to hope, the last word “despair” shows that it is not all optimism in her poetry. It seems that she has again reverted to the theme of death and its negative theological impacts on her. Her torment is evidenced by the use of darkness, frost, and fire. The mental agony is too clear. The opening line speaks about her obsession with Death and the Dead. Among its most popular verses, some are as follows.
- It was not Death, for I stood up.
- It was not Frost, for on my Flesh.
- When everything that ticked– has stopped– / And Space stares– all around–.