A poet from the past and modern style combines to highlight social relevance

By jasmine edge: Literature Columnist

It can sometimes be hard to understand and digest poetry, particularly from famous writer’s long gone from this world. However, Apple TV’s show ‘Dickinson’, based on the life of Emily Dickinson, the poet, has made her work written two hundred years ago relevant to streamers today.

Music is everything

Season one came out in November 2019 and received a warm welcome from viewers, scoring 91% on Rotten Tomatoes by the audience, and it’s easy to see why. The show has been made for a modern spectator, particularly being targeted at the younger generation. The selection of music incorporated in the show such as Billie Eilish’s ‘bury a friend’, and the rapper Wiz Khalifa featuring in the show as the character death, helps bring Dickinson’s poetry to a new audience. Other artists songs include Lizzo’s ‘boys’, Hailee Steinfeld’s ‘Afterlife’ and ‘I Like Tuh’ by Carnage, a choice which breathes new life into what starts as a classic 1800s dance scene and turns into a 21st century dance party in episode 3 of the season.  The use of modern music has been used to bring an old world to a new generation, one that it may have been misunderstood and lost too.

Music can be argued to be a part of the poetic expression; the producers of the show have done a seamless job of weaving todays lyricism in music with Emily Dickinson’s famous poems.

Not all fiction

The show manages to keep to a fairly close re-telling of the life of the famous American poet, whilst simultaneously including details from a whole other century. A comparison between her real life and the show, would reveal that ‘Dickinson’ teaches its viewers key information that’s made the poets life remarkable.

Photo: Joshua Case

MACKAYAN: why you should watch dickinson

The storyline of the first season follows Emily Dickinson as a young woman not having long left education. The viewers see the development of her relationship with Susan Gilbert, a friend, and long suspected lover by academics. Whilst she goes on to marry Dickinson’s brother Austin, the two are shown to have a special bond in the show.

This portrayal is not far from what researchers have concluded from the letters exchanged between the women themselves. Thou the show decided to include a love affair between Dickinson, and her father’s legal assistant Ben Newton which is an unpopular theory among followers of her work; the show depicting Dickinson’s world fairly portrays the difficulties she faced as a young, headstrong woman in the mid 1800s.

Strong female lead

The modern-day music and youthful phrases used in the show, mirror Emily Dickinson’s displacement in a world that wasn’t prepared for such progressive ideas. The strict attitudes of her mother and father, who believed in appearances and let social ideas dictate their family, also goes in to showing the audience that the poet’s life was filled with boundaries she was trying to push. The visuals in the show, particularly of the poet’s carriage rides with death, give people a unique chance to step into this bold interpretation of what Dickinson’s mind may have been filled with.

The choice of music and phrases used from today’s generation of youth is what makes this period drama fresh. Season two is set to be released on January 8th 2021, and the trailer already promises all the goodness people enjoyed from the previous season. ‘Dickinson’ transports poetry from another decade into the hands of today’s audience, and seemingly its magic has not been lost.