From the Archives: 10 Previously Unpublished Poems by Emily Dickinson

The Atlantic helped connect Dickinson with an important mentor when she was 31, but didn’t print her poetry until decades later.

Getty / Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic

Emily Dickinson was 31 and entirely unknown in the literary world when she came across Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s “Letter to a Young Contributor” in the April 1862 issue of The Atlantic. Hoping for guidance in her writing, she reached out to Higginson that month with four poems and a brief, unsigned letter. “Mr. Higginson,” she began, “Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?”

That first shy correspondence began a decades-long mentorship that culminated, four years after Dickinson’s death, in Higginson helping to publish her first poetry collection. Only 10 of her poems were published before she died at the age of 56, all anonymously and none in the pages of The Atlantic. But the magazine printed dozens of them posthumously. These 10 previously unpublished poems, featured in the February 1929 issue, were the first to appear. — Annika Neklason