Your Art is Your Letter to the World

What do you have to say?

Sara Benincasa
19 min readOct 12, 2021


Photo by the author, October 2021

Sometime in the years leading up to the Civil War, dearly beloved Massachusetts weirdo Emily Dickinson wrote a poem that would be taught in endless American public high school English classrooms of the future.

This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me —
The simple News that Nature told —
With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see —
For love of Her — Sweet — countrymen —
Judge tenderly — of Me

— Emily Dickinson

When one researches the poem online, one encounters endless mentions of “isolation” and “solitude,” generally on clunky websites tailor-made to be copied and pasted by stressed high school students with an hour left before the stupid goddamn essay is due.

I appreciate the standard-issue Cliff’s Notes-style articles on those aforementioned sites, most of which were likely churned out by financially strapped graduate students working for journalism or education degrees, happy to grab an underpaid freelance gig from some faceless corporation that will inevitably be eaten up by a series of faceless corporations, in the endess turduckening of American media. The articles are straightforward, to the point, and useful. I wrote some things like that myself, long ago.

Then there are the personal literary blogs, where readers of poetry bring a more specific eye to the work, with interpretations grounded in their own lived experience. I like these best of all. The line between scholarly analysis and personal psychological projection is blurry anyway, and personal blogs generally dispense with received notions of academic etiquette and just go for it. This happens on podcasts, too.

I am not nosy, but I am very curious. I learn about strangers when they write about poetry. If you want to know who someone wants to be, listen to them talk about the art they love.

Lots of people love Emily Dickinson. I’m not a huge Dickinson fan, but I like learning about her.



Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast.