Reading Corner: To Imagination: Reflecting on Emily Brontë’s Poetry

Most of us turn to Wuthering Heights when we think of one of our most esteemed writers – Emily Brontë, and understandably so. Her first and only novel (owing to her premature death), is a work of genius which laces together desire, grief, and the inner workings of the human psyche with the gothic setting of the vast Yorkshire Moors. I first read Wuthering Heights when I was about eighteen, after having attempted it at fourteen then neglecting it for several years – (I know, shame on me!). However, it is worth noting that Emily was also an incredible poet.

When I turned to Emily’s poetry for the first time, I realised what I had been missing out on. Her poetry really does show the true extent of her intellect, her passion, and her insight into our emotions – as well as her own. They flow so freely and have such a well-paced rhythm to read aloud. I have her full collection of poetry and I like to open to a random page every now and again to read whatever greets me.

One I turn to time and time again is “The Prisoner”. For me, this is a poem of strength, endurance and overcoming. It was John Stuart Mill who said that “poetry is overheard”. I think what he meant by this is that we are getting an insight into the poet’s innermost thoughts and feelings. If novels are ‘heard’ and meant for readership, poetry presents to us, perhaps, the rawer side of human nature. We definitely get a sense of this with Emily Brontë’s poetry, especially considering that originally her poetry wasn’t meant to be read; it was Charlotte who found her collection and convinced her to attempt publishing some, along with poetry by herself and their younger sister, Anne, under pseudonyms – Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.

Emily grapples with and contemplates our most complex issues in her poetry and doesn’t shy away from darker themes, like death and grief. Her writing is intense and raw and often provokes an emotional response from me, which is what good poetry is all about. I feel a real connection with her through the page, which is what makes me dearly treasure her collection.

Jessica Holifield

Featured Image Source: Jessica Holifield

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