In 1860’s, Emily Dickinson lived in physical isolation from the outside world. She remained socially active only through correspondences and letters, and read. With time, she acquired local notoriety; she dressed completely in white and she was rarely seen by her neighbors unless it was absolutely necessary. As early as 1867, she began to talk to visitors from the other side of a door rather than speaking them face to face. Austin (her old brother) and her family began to protect her privacy, deciding that she was not to be subject of discussion with outsiders. However, she used to send over small gifts of poems and flowers to visitors who came to her family’s homestead.
This is one of her most popular poems, perhaps one of the most memorable ones.
"I'm Nobody! Who are you?"
by Emily Dickinson
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one's name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
-Dreary (adj.): Dull, bleak, lifeless, depressing.
-Bog (noun): wet muddy ground too soft to support a heavy body.
Do you know?
In the first stanza she presents that she’s equal to us (the reader). She says she's a “Nobody” too, yet she suggests keeping it secret, or they would advertise it. From one perspetive, it may represent how society creates images with our flaws, imperfections, weaknesses, and spread them around in a way that frames us within stereotypes.
However, she seems to be proud to be a “Nobody” when we read the second stanza. She says how dreary it is to be “Somebody,” and with a very graphic simile, she compares those public people to be “like a frog – To tell one’s name – the livelong June – To an admiring Bog!”
Although it may be a simple poem, the deepness of its sociology transcends time and culture, even in reference to the media nowadays. Who are you? Are you whom people think you are? Why? Can this frog represent the pride of being somebody, claiming one’s name like the livelong June, so sunny and bright, standing above the admiring bog? Is that how a "Nobody" would feel to a "Somebody" nowadays? Like a bog?
Emily Dickinson is one of the best English writers of all time, her poetry are often marked with the intimate remembrance of inspirational moments which reflect life, love, hope, among other general themes which connect us despite the society we live in. She didn’t need to be somebody to be recognized as one of the best; her poetry speaks for itself.
This article is in tribute to all Artists, who, even if they consider themselves to be a “Nobody,” or even if society has framed you that way; the process; the sweat and tears you have spent on to creatively express yourself through Art is, truly, what makes you an Artist.