Just a handful of her poems had been published at the time of her death in 1886. It was only afterwards that her family discovered her vast unpublished output. The scale was extraordinary: her Complete Poems is an 800-page brick containing 1,775 individual poems.
So why does Apple’s trailer make her look like an out-of-town hustler who’s just crashed a poetry slam, or an Instapoet, performative and idiosyncratic, whose output is as much about image as it is content? Instapoetry is that short affirmatory verse posted on social media, the best-known proponent of which is probably Rupi Kaur, who has 3.7 million followers on Instagram and alternates posts of her poems with fashion shots (she shares a stylist with Selena Gomez).
Maybe the idea of Dickinson as the world’s first Instapoet is not entirely off the mark. The visual component is there: her poems are short and clean, simple in form and structure. Presented bare on the page they have the appearance of Instapoetry: a unit of thought held in white space, closed, entire.
The difference is that the appeal of Rupi Kaur and her peers is in the instant delivery of meaning to the reader: each poem can, in both a visual and literary sense, be seen all at once. But Dickinson’s poems, even when accessible on the surface, continue to surprise on every reading. They are hymns, puzzles, clockwork toys, the words precise but ambiguous. Here she is on the process of grief in 1862 poem After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes: