Study Guide

From Blank to Blank

By Emily Dickinson

From Blank to Blank Introduction

We have a confession to make, Shmoopers. Sometimes we sit around wondering what it would be like to be Emily Dickinson. What must it be like to live for years all by your lonesome? To hardly ever talk to friends and family except through letters? To wear those uptight dresses ladies had to wear back in the nineteenth century? Okay, so we're going to find out the answer to that last question at the next costume party we go to. (Did those things come with a girdle? Let's hope so...)

We're not the only ones who've speculated on what Emily's loner life must've been like, though, or why she might've chosen to live that way. Despite the fact that plenty have pried through the stacks of letters she wrote to family and friends, nobody has ever solved the mystery. What we do know for sure is that this lady wrote 1,775 of the greatest American poems—ever. She hardly lifted a finger to get any of them published in her lifetime, but lucky for us her little sis Lavinia made it her mission to get Emily published after Emily died.

"From Blank to Blank—" didn't come out in the first batch of Emily's poems, published in 1890. It actually didn't see print until 1929. We don't know for sure, but we can probably guess why. This one's definitely a lot denser than some of her first poems to see print. And we figure the central image of a person stumbling helplessly through a void of nothingness might've been a little much for some of those delicate nineteenth-century sensibilities. There would've been some busted girdles for sure. All the same, this poem is especially powerful when we think about it in the context of Emily's life. Did all those days spent alone sometimes feel like Blanks? There's only one way to find out, gang: read the poem.

What is From Blank to Blank About and Why Should I Care?

"From Blank to Blank—" is a poem for when you feel like you don't care about anything at all. No matter how perky and motivated we are, sometimes we get down in the dumps. And everybody deals with these slumps in different ways. Some of us lock ourselves in our rooms with mountains of chocolate. Others turn off our phones and binge-watch reruns of Law and Order until our eyes bleed. And still others put on bunny suits and sit on random park benches staring creepily at people as they walk by. (Okay, so we only know one guy who does that.)

Still, if you're in the market for a new coping mechanism for when you're feeling depressed, look no further than this poem. Now don't expect it to tell you everything's going to be all right. Emily Dickinson's speaker is probably more depressed than you'll ever be, so she won't try super-hard to cheer you up. What she will do, though, is show you that you're not the only one who sometimes feels alone. And, in a weird way, once we realize we're all alone, we might not feel quite so alone anymore.

From Blank to Blank Resources

Websites

Dickinson Electronic Archive
Click here to get a peep at the original copy of the poem written in Emily's own handwriting.

Neurotic Poets
For tons of juicy Dickinson life facts, click here.

Dickinson Biography
This site offers a few bios, short and sweet.

Video

(Not So) Dramatic Reading
Here's a pretty sparse reading of the poem, but that's pretty appropriate when you think about it.

Dickinson Out Loud
Some lady robotically reads the poem out loud while you stare at a picture of Dickinson—sounds like a good time to us.

Audio

Harris Does Dickinson
Julie Harris, actress extraordinaire, performs some of Emily's poems and letters.

Images

Classic Emily D
This is the image most associated with our poet.

Dickinson Pic
Scroll down here for a new old picture of Emily.

Articles and Interviews

The Emily Dickinson Journal
You want articles? Here's all the Dickinson you could ever desire.

Books

Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters
Is it creepy to read somebody's letter after they die?

The Complete Poems
It's a lot less creepy to read their poems, though.